Talk:President-elect of the United States

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Older discussions[edit]

Earlier discussion can be found at talk:President-elect. --Modocc (talk) 18:25, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Electoral College role[edit]

In the United States, one is the President-elect from the Electoral College vote, not the popular vote. Can somebody help change all of it? 151.185.60.250 (talk) 15:23, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Pre-election “President-elect”[edit]

U.S. Presidents are elected by the Electoral College at an election in December (or later, by the House of Representatives.) Voters can’t vote for President in November and it is legally impossible for anyone who is not and elector (or, sometimes, a congressman) to vote for a candidate for President. The election of electors is just a currently popular way of selecting electors and in some years (1796, for example) a MAJORITY of states chose their electors through their legislatures—meaning that there were NO votes (other than those of the legislators) cast for any presidential candidate in most states of the union. What happens in November is not an election of a president, but the selection of electors. They elect the President of the United States and they do it in December. No one can be anything-“elect” until the election is held and the votes are cast. Polling the presidential electorate (the Electoral College) strongly suggests that the Democratic candidate will be elected on December 15th, assuming the electors vote according to their pledges and beliefs.

The problem with the forgoing is not that it is inaccurate, but that MOST people—including most voters and most “educated” people are ignorant of some or all of it. Even members of the press use the word “president-elect” on a (still) candidate before the election not because they don’t know there is an electoral college, but because they really don’t really know when the Electoral College does its thing. In other words, they don’t know WHEN the presidential election happens. However, embracing the ignorance is not what encyclopedias are all about and there are plenty of things that are widely said that are, nevertheless, objectively and incontrovertibly bogus. On December 15th this will probably subside, but reinforcing ignorance in the mean time is abominable. 1800? 1876? 2000? The history is there and disinforming people only makes them, and our system of government, vulnerable to abuse.


This article must not gloss over the facts, but should teat them fairly.

Criticality (talk)

All reliable sources refer to Obama as the President-elect. Modocc (talk) 03:09, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
That is simply not the case. Even the existing quotes on the page to from the U.S. Congressional sources make it clear that the electors' votes must be case before there is a "president-elect." Criticality (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 03:35, 10 December 2008 (UTC).
Presently, he president elect is the "apparent" winner. The eventual winner etc. He has the title by virtue of the 1963 law. Modocc (talk) 03:39, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
The 1963 law uses the word as a term of art--tha'st why it say "terms . . . as used in this Act shall mean . . ." Even a person actually elected and who is really a "President-Elect" is not "President-Elect" under the statute if the election is contested because their "success" may not be "apparent" under that statute. Federal law also defines the word "State" to include "District of Columbia" in many many places. Yet, outside of those statutes, D.C. is not a state. Criticality (talk) 04:08, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
The president-elect, would not be titled president-elect if they were not the apparent winner, or the results are seriously contested, and if really close, perhaps not even be referred too as such until the votes are certified in January. Yet even your FOX source can be cited that Obama is the president-elect. Beginning with "President-elect Barack Obama is looking very presidential these days." and continuing with "As president-elect, Obama is also given the same highly classified intelligence briefings that President Bush receives on a daily basis." Modocc (talk) 04:27, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
Which is the whole point. The President-elect is someone who has been elected, not apparently elected or soon-to-be-elected or bound-to-be-elected. That is what words like "heir-apparent" and "presumptive winner" mean. The president-elect (or senator-elect or grand poobah-elect) is a person has been elected but has yet to take office. That is what the first line of the article (correctly) says. Unless you are going to claim that the President is actually elected in November rather than in December (or later), then the term would not apply to Obama by the article's own thesis. My edit explains the use of the term in both its proper and improper sense. Yours either contradicts itself or implies that a President is elected in November. Is the latter your claim? Do you really believe Obama has been elected to the Presidency? If you don't then do not call him "President-elect," which means he has been elected. If, on the other hand, you believe that a person is [insert office]-elect when their ultimate election seems just overwhelmingly likely, then you can start using the term in October, if the polls show a candidate virtually assured to win, barring calamity, then they are as good as elected. Hence "elect"? Isn't that Obama's situation, "virtually assured to win barring calamity"? The term is often abused, largely due to ignorance and indifference that should not be endorsed. People in this country call the Westminster Palace clock tower "Big Ben" not because it is properly known by that name, but because they are almost universally ignorant of the fact that it is the bell in the tower is "Big Ben" and they don't know that. You could just change that article to make it say what they think. All better then. Criticality (talk) 05:35, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
"...do not call him "President-elect,"..."? It does not matter what you nor I believe, call or declare the TRUTH. The FOX citation does not say its "erroneous" to refer to Obama as president-elect. Are they wrong for FOX to also write "President-elect Obama..."? As to the technicalities, the November ballots did give us a choice in this matter. Nevertheless, its what reliable sources have established that matters most here, and they do not, in general, qualify the general election result as you suggest. President-elect is the common usage and it is correct for the purposes that it is used for. To say otherwise is a fallacy. The FOX source does not say the reliable sources are "erroneous". It doesn't say it is "erroneous" either, and the "not president-elect" commentary is a distortion of the "technicality" that electoral votes need to be cast and certified prior to the inauguration. Even with such stipulation, the general election was an election and Obama, by all accounts, won. He and the losing candidates were on the ballot... Modocc (talk) 05:43, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
You state “the November ballots did give us a choice in this matter.” That is true if you mean a choice of electors who we expect will vote for a Presidential candidate we support. You say that reliable sources “do not, in general, qualify the general election result as you suggest.” Really? Only when the “reliable” sources speaking inaccurately. You may see it said that Obama won the presidential election in November—which is inaccurate. People will say all sorts of things true and false and will contradict themselves (the same way the article correctly contradicts itself). As I said before and as you want to finesse it is false to say “Obama was elected President in November as such.” Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College The expression is a careless one that is false on its face, but conveys a different but related truth, namely that the enough electors endorsed by Obama were elected in November to put him in a position to win the election in December, which he will—probably. So the November papers say “Obama elected President” even though they know it is literally false, just like calling Obama “President-elect” is false. It is false, but who wants to say “presumptive president-elect”? Won’t sell papers that way. And the newspapers the day after the November election are not going to say “People of America vote for a majority of electors who promise that they will vote for Obama for President.” But that IS the truth and that IS what Wikipedia’s article on the Electoral College actually says. The devil is in the details and the encyclopedia should be accurate. Should is say “Obama elected President in November”? That’s what you are claiming it should say. You should go over and edit the electoral college article then. It says Obama was not elected president in November, even though most of the newspapers and most people colloquially say he was. That’s because the Electoral College encyclopedia article is trying to be accurate. Either Obama has, as of now, been elected President or he has not. It can’t be both true and false at the same time in the same respect. You say he was elected, I say he was not and you can find at least as many newspaper citations to support you assertion as I can mine. Yet the Wiki article on the electoral college says something different—-it agrees with my position, that the election is scheduled for December, and it is correct in this regard and should not be changed. To you the words you deride as insignificant, the Electoral College article is technically correct but colloquially wrong. I think that the article on President-elect of the United States should be technically correct, proper and accurate rather than inaccurate, technically wrong, and improper. That Obama is president-elect is technically false and it is inaccurate, but it has a colloquial, soft but sincere truth to it inasmuch as people cast votes (my ballot said “electors for Barak Obama.”) in support of their candidate. Of course, these votes did help their candidates, but only by electing someone else to a different office. I knew what I was doing—-I was voting for my candidate’s political cronies, whom I expected to do their job in December by voting for him. I assume you did the same. How will Wikipedia describe what we did? Accurately? Colloquially? Erroneously? Technically correct? Or technically wrong? If the encyclopedia wants to be accurate, it should describe what is technically true. It can describe what is colloquially believed, but it should qualify such statements accordingly. Millions voted for Obama and they are thrilled that he won in November because they voted for his electors. They want to see him as President ASAP. And we will all observe as he is elected on the 15th of December and assumes the office on January 20. But affection and desire will not make it happen faster than that. This article should be accurate based on objective realiable sources. I assert that my edit does this much better than the others proposed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Criticality (talkcontribs) 06:47, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
I have put on a slightly smother edit that you may (or may not) believe does justice to our discussion. Criticality (talk) 07:01, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

(outindent)The reliable sources that can be cited aren't just newspaper-selling one-line headliners. Furthermore, I am an American that has filled in one of the little ovals next to a candidate, but do not have a clue who my electoral representative is or how they will vote on the 15th (they are supposed to represent, in good faith, my vote (I say good faith because their actual vote will be contingent on good faith considerations). Whether or not the actual outcome is the same is irrelevant. The first election has transpired and soon another will too. Should the outcome of the electoral vote differ, it won't actually matter. In the unlikely event of this happening, we would simply have a different president-elect declared at that time. In the mean time, Obama is the president-elect because he has been and will be (apparently) elected. The constitution defines process, but it does not define the term "President-elect" or its usage. Its clear that it is widely-used, including with the 1963 law and by Obama and others. The provisional (or electoral) and common usages are not mutually exclusive. These non-exclusive usages should be clear from the fact that "President-elect" is used by the 1963 law and, consequently, by all official mandates associated with it. Had the law said he is "King" or "Presumptive-Prez" for the said purposes, then he would be correctly referred to those titles given the documented transition mandates. The law simply reflects and makes official the many decades of usage. To say his official title is technically incorrect is plain wrong. For one, the FOX article does not say the president-elect title is technically incorrect[indeed, the article even uses the title itself], it says he will not technically become president-elect [in accordance with his title] until the second vote. Its kind of like saying one is not born until one's birthday, even though we are conceived and exist prior to that. The acts of being and becoming are two different things. Obama is president-elect now based on the general election and on what is assumed will happen. Again, this might all change, but it does not change what the reliable sources currently say [Obama is the president-elect, and NOT the "next president-elect", having just noticed that consequential blunder as I was putting up the template; for the sources that actually say differently include the BBC and every source imaginable], in addition to what the law requires of us. Modocc (talk) 07:50, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

  • sigh*Do you know that almost all of this disputing occurs entirely within wikipedia users, not viewers? No one who reads and wikipedia except us users really cares about any of this whole "is he technically the president-elect" crap, because we all know he is. People just want to read facts.Saberwolf116 (talk) 13:57, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Another quick note, the 1933 congressional opinion cited (by the 2004 report) is antiquated. Its [sense of "generally accepted"] usage of the term President-elect predates both current law and current use by many decades. Hence, the utility of the source is limited primarily to interpreting questions pertinent to interpretation of the 20th amendment and other president-elect questions at that time it was written. This out-of-context cite just does not hold weight in the lede. Its not a recent authoritative consensus description, and if it were, it of course would be far superior to misconstruing a single unreliable FOX opinion piece; but its not, nor will there be, given the present usage both in practice and in law. Calling Obama the President-elect is not "technically incorrect" usage. In short, current reliable sources establish that addressing Obama by his title is proper and is not "technically incorrect" use as claimed. Modocc (talk) 17:20, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

When I was a kid, we had these purple ink handouts in school produced by a mechanical system called, by all involved, the “mimeograph.” The papers thus printed had a neat chemical smell when fresh. (I should have sniffed them a lot more, I suspect.) It was, of course, not a mimeograph, but a spirit duplicator. Mimeographs used a significantly different technology, but we didn’t understand that. We were all ignorant of that technicality and the misuse of the term was pretty common everywhere. But we did not covert spirit duplicator, through our misunderstanding, into a mimeograph machine.
The reality behind this discussion is, again, that most people are confused about when and how the presidential election occurs. Those who are less confused and more knowledgeable still don’t have a proper expression for what Obama is at the moment. “Presumptive President-elect” is pretty awkward sounding. Being accurate is tedious and takes effort sometimes. The net result of all this is that people misuse the term almost as often as the use it correctly. But importantly, this is not just about frequent misuse of the word, but about confusion about the actual nature of the subject of the word, that is, the election process.
(1) The belief that the President of the United States is elected in the November is wrong. People will state the contrary all the time, but they don’t know any better or they just don’t care. One can play word games all day long, of course. Ambiguity lurks in every corner of human language—I know that as well as any of you, believe me. You can cite sources all day long that say the President is elected in November, the flat earth universe is open to all, just don’t fall off the edge. I could point out simple hypotheticals—like Obama is consumed by a scandal fabricated by his enemies and a majority of college members defect on the 15th and electing Hillary president. It is unlikely, but were it to happen she would really and truly be elected President and earn the title “President-elect.” I could point out, again, that in some past election cycles a majority of states have had no presidential elector candidates on the ballot in November. (Nor any presidential candidates either, of course, because no state has ever had a Presidential candidate on the ballot in November, only electors. U.S. Presidents aren’t elected in November. This is not my fault. It was not my idea. It is not my fault most people don’t know this. Poverty is not my fault. Cancer is not my fault.) Read up on the Electoral College more if this is still an issue--or write Obama an email and ask him. Virtually every "reliable source" that is taking the issue on directly will tell you that the November election only elects electors, not Presidents, that these electors chosen in November have the power to elect a President and that they do that in the election that (usually) elects the U.S. President in December.
(2) The sense of the “[office]-elect” construction is to refer to a person in a post-election but pre-accession condition. What comes before that is mere candidacy, and thereafter after is office-holding. The obvious definition of “President-elect” is “[a] person who has been elected president but has not yet been inducted into office.” That’s offered by the 2000 American Heritage Dictionary. (http://www.bartleby.com/61/99/P0539900.html). Virtually all other dictionaries are similar. But now I seem to have gotten you to the sad point where you feel you need to attack this definition as wrong. Either that or you have to say that the President is not elected by the Electoral College (or House, etc.) but by “the voters” in November. If you really believe that, then there’s nothing more I will say.
To make the hopelessly illogical work, you are proposing to (re)define the term “President-elect” not as “[a] person who has been elected president but has not yet been inducted into office,” but as “a person who is widely recognized to have a very great likelihood of being elected president, regardless of whether the election has been held or not.” The fact that that does not give you pause is a profound mystery to me. What is happening, I surmise, is that the aforementioned utter confusion about our electoral system is being given precedent over the reality of the electoral system. To which I say, yikes! It does account for much of the cited (mis)usage of the word, but it does so by literally embracing confusion, by doing mortal violence to the existing proper/dictionary definition of the word, and by alienating it form every other use of the-elect construction (senator-elect, editor-elect) which continue to demand a person be elected before they are “elect.”
In my edit, I tried to acknowledge the improper use of the word, but did not attempt to reduce the proper and improper use as you seek to do. Your approach is about obfuscation and distraction. So be it.
In re technicalities: It has been suggested that the technicalities of our system of government are a too annoying and irrelevant for inclusion in Wikipedia. I guess that some sort of terse, common sense generalization is supposed to be better. I will say that, at least in matters of law (and this system is defined in law) the technicalities are the realities. Saying that an encyclopedia must gloss over the technicalities of our electoral system is to say that ordinary people don’t need to know how the system really works. This is kind of what the Electoral College system was invented to address--ordinary people can’t be expected to understand all the subtle issues of state, the President should be elected by a small group of better equipped “electors” who will be chosen as state legislatures shall provide. Good idea! Maybe the Framers were smarter than we thought.
Anyway, political zeal has injected more misology into this environment than I have the patience for. Funny thing is, in two months, reality may set in here because no one will have an ax to grind. In any case, this page is all yours, kids. Have fun! Criticality (talk) 02:38, 12 December 2008 (UTC)
Whatever the reality, please avoid engaging in synthesis of verifiable facts. Modocc (talk) 20:25, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

If a sitting President has won re-election, he is not referred to as a "President-elect" because he is already in office and is not waiting to become president. Then T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman and LBJ should be removed from the list. There are only 35 President-elects from the US. Agreed? JackOL31 (talk) 12:46, 10 November 2012 (UTC)

Lede change proposal to reflect usage by reliable sources[edit]

There was an inconsistency that Criticality pointed out and it should be addressed by modifying the lede to reflect the factual usage of president-elect by reliable sources. I would simply do the rewrite myself, but it might need tweaking and I certainly don't want to be warned or hauled to the 3rr board by anyone at this point, hence I propose the following edit:

The President-elect of the United States is an apparent winner of a general election on Election Day of candidates for the office of the President of the United States and a person elected to the office by popularly elected representatives of the Electoral College prior to being inaugurated on January 20. Sitting Presidents who have been re-elected, and Vice-Presidents who have succeeded to the office of President through death or resignation of a previous President, are not referred to as "Presidents-elect". The current President-elect of the United States is Barack Obama.

This edit brings into the lede the current usage of the term "president-elect" (by reliable sources) with regards to both elections, making it more accurate and less subject to dispute. Modocc (talk) 12:23, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Tweaking my first draft I get:
The President-elect of the United States is an apparent winning candidate for the office of the President of the United States following a general election on Election Day held to determine the electors of the President, and is a person elected to the office by the Electoral College prior to assuming the presidency on Inauguration Day. Sitting Presidents who have been re-elected, and Vice-Presidents who have succeeded to the office of President through death or resignation of a previous President, are not referred to as "Presidents-elect". The current President-elect of the United States is Barack Obama.
This version is more descriptive. Modocc (talk) 14:10, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Modoc, I'd lean toward describing "president-elect" as a term or title rather than as a person. This would reduce the awkwardness of the form "... is an apparent winning candidate...and is a person elected to the office..." Something like:

President-elect of the United States is the title used for an incoming president in the period between the general election on Election Day in November and the swearing-in of a the new president on Inaguration Day. The title is used informally but widely as soon as an apparent winner is identified by the news media, and is formalized when the Electoral College votes in December. Sitting Presidents who have been re-elected, and Vice-Presidents who have succeeded to the office of President through death or resignation of a previous President, are not referred to as "Presidents-elect". The current President-elect of the United States is Barack Obama.
This construction seems smoother to me. I'm a first-time editor here but I've been following the debate on this page and on the Barack Obama page. CouldOughta (talk) 05:15, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Make that Inauguration Day. Even better, "Inauguration Day the following January 20th" CouldOughta (talk) 05:19, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

And should be "swearing-in of the new president" not "of a the new president". Sorry. CouldOughta (talk) 05:22, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

The GSA formally uses the title almost immediately after the general election, yet the winner is not formally declared until the votes are certified Jan. 6. Other than perhaps quibbling about these details, I do like your suggestion. Modocc (talk) 17:37, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps:

President-elect of the United States is the title used for an incoming American president in the period between the general election on Election Day in November and the swearing-in of the new president on Inauguration Day. The title is used informally but widely as soon as an apparent winner is identified by the news media, and is finalized when the Electoral College votes in December. A sitting President who has won re-election is not referred to as "President-elect".
The current President-elect of the United States is Barack Obama.

"Finalized" is more accurate and avoids implying that there are no other formalities involved. The mention about vice-presidents seemed irrelevant. "won re-election" is more vivid than "have been re-elected", and changing from plural to singular avoids using "presidents-elect" which is a cool plural but there never is more than one at a time. Adding "American" is because there are other presidents-elect.

Do you think we need a sentence after the second one saying "Between the election and the Electoral College vote, a series of events based on statutory law formalize the President-elect's status." ? It seems unnecessary to me but it could go in. CouldOughta (talk) 04:25, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Its important that there be included a reference to the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (without necessarily specifically mentioning it). Also, the detail about the media coverage is at about on the same level as the act, thus for improved balance we can significantly trim this to: "The title is used for the apparent winner[ref] and finalized...". That would address my concerns. Modocc (talk) 16:32, 13 December 2008 (UTC)
Also, lets include the congress's role in the process: The title is used for the apparent winner[1] and is finalized when the Electoral College votes in December and when their ballots are counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6. At this point, I think we should move this to the article space. Modocc (talk) 17:25, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

No Seal[edit]

No office of President-elect exists. It is a convenient reference. It has no seal, so the seal has been removed. President-elect gets to use the seal when he becomes president but not before then. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.155.175.34 (talk) 19:58, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Since the seal if for our current POTUS, I agree with the removal. Modocc (talk) 22:02, 16 December 2008 (UTC)


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