When does the president take office? Date presidential term begins and inaugural ceremonies explained

The Joe Biden vs Donald Trump race is coming to a head - but when will the next president take up duties?

This year's race for president between Biden and Trump has been unlike any seen before (Shutterstock)
This year's race for president between Biden and Trump has been unlike any seen before (Shutterstock)

With the US presidential debates over, the candidates are in the final throes of campaigning before election day on November 3.

Incumbent Republican president Donald Trump is running for a second term against Barack Obama’s former vice president, Democrat Joe Biden.

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It’s an election unlike any seen before, with the Covid-19 pandemic having thrown many aspects of the race into uncertainty.

The crowds outside the Capitol as President Trump was sworn into office in 2017 (Shutterstock)

Apart from the president himself contracting the virus, a record number of US citizens have already cast their ballots by post after concerns over the safety of in-person voting.

Donald Trump, in a tweet, even suggested delaying the election after he claimed widespread mail-in voting could lead to fraud.

Because postal votes take longer to be counted, election experts have suggested that this might affect when the final result is declared - but will it alter when the next president takes office?

Here’s everything you need to know about election day and beyond.

Trump and Biden go head to head during the first 2020 presidential election debate (Shutterstock)

Which candidate is leading the polls?

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At the time of writing, Biden is leading the national polls which indicate how popular a candidate is across the US.

But, just as Hillary Clinton had a clear lead over Trump in the polls in 2016, this doesn’t necessarily mean Biden will win due to the country’s electoral college voting system.

The system means US citizens don’t vote for their president and vice-president directly - instead, they appoint electors, state officials or senior party figures, who elect the president on their behalf.

Significantly, Biden is leading the recent Florida polls - a “battleground state” - by a four point margin.

Polling experts have said if Trump loses this key state it’s possible he will have no way of achieving the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election.

When is the 2020 presidential election?

This year, the election will be held on Tuesday, November 3.

Thanks to the early voting system, over 75 million Americans have already cast ballots - more than a third of registered voters - but millions more will still vote on the day.

The mountainous task of counting the votes begins later that day.

When will the results be announced?

In 2016, the election was called at 2:30am EST on November 4 as Trump won Wisconsin, which pushed him over the 270 votes he needed to beat Clinton.

This year, due to the sheer volume of mail-in ballots, the clear winner might not be known until a few days after Election Day.

Pollsters and media outlets are expected to publish projected results on the night, along with live state updates, but these predictions are provisional until postal votes have been counted.

Most mail-in ballots must be received within a couple of days of November 3, with each state beginning to certify its results from November 10 - and all recounts and challenges must be resolved by December 8.

When will the next president take office?

The new president is always inaugurated on January 20, a date which is enshrined in the US constitution.

Inauguration Day is a huge ceremony hosted at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.

The vice president-elect is sworn into office first, followed by the president who takes the oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.”

This is then followed by the president’s inaugural address. It’s traditional for the president to speak to the country and outline their plans for the next term.

What happens after the inauguration?

Following the swearing-in ceremonies, the outgoing president - if there is one - leaves the Capitol along with the First Lady.

The new president is taken to the President’s Room in the building to undertake their first official actions in office by signing nominations, memorandums and executive orders, alongside their aides and Members of Congress.

After the inaugural luncheon, the president and vice president lead a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House - an event which is said to be widely celebrated across America.