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WASHINGTON - In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is now being called the president-elect.
That means Biden, a fixture on the Washington political scene for nearly a half century, is the country's leader-in-waiting.
President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he won't until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.
American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, on Saturday morning projected that Biden's lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, the state that would put him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.
That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."
Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on.
Still, Biden is moving forward with planning for the transition and considering key appointments to his administration. He says that in the first days after taking office he will reverse several Trump policies.
So, there is much for Biden to consider and prepare for in the next 2.5 months, but he does not yet have any authority in an official capacity.
Trump remains president as his four-year term as the country's 45th president winds down.
Certifying election tally
The U.S. election won't be officially certified for weeks.
First, election officials in each of the country's 50 states and the District of Columbia must certify the official vote count for Biden and Trump. Numerous states are still counting ballots from Tuesday's election and the weeks of early voting.
The U.S. elects its presidents through an indirect form of democracy, in the 538-member Electoral College, where a majority of 270 votes are needed to claim the presidency. The most populous states hold the most sway in determining the outcome, not the national popular vote.
In all but two states, the vote-count winner collects all of the state's electors. In lightly populated Maine and Nebraska, the electors are determined by congressional district and the statewide outcome.
Both Biden and Trump have state-by-state lists of pledged electors who then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December, depending on the outcome in the individual states. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.
Trump has filed numerous lawsuits claiming irregularities in the voting and vote counting over the past several days. He says, without evidence so far, that those irregularities would reverse the presumed Biden victory and hand Trump a second four-year term.
But all U.S. major television networks and leading newspapers have declared Biden the winner, even as Trump continued Sunday to claim that he was cheated out of reelection.
So, with Biden ahead in the unofficial Electoral College count and believed to have more electors than the 270 majority he needs to claim the presidency, he is being called the president-elect.