Hannah Lazarte for the Atlantic
For the average American citizen, after all the energy and effort put into voting, the time between election day and inauguration day feels like a resting period. But there is a whole checklist of things to do before the next president is inaugurated. Let’s break down all of the steps in delegating the powers of the President into three key phases.
Members of the transition team are assembled long before election day, which begins in April or May. This team meets with members of Congress, the current administration, the General Services Administration, the Office of Government Ethics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Personal Management to set goals and prepare the plan for the transition.
After election day, the votes are counted (and recounted if necessary) and each state certifies its results. According to the Electoral Census Act, all states must observe a deadline in which all votes are counted, disputes are resolved and the winner of the votes is announced to the electoral college.
Votes are cast on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Voters meet in their respective states to cast their votes for the president and send the results to Washington. Before the official counting of the votes, the new congress will be sworn in on January 3rd at 12 noon.
The official guide to procedures in the Senate states: “The Senate follows an established routine on the opening day of a new Congress. The process includes swearing in senators who were elected or re-elected in the last general election (approximately one third of the Senate) or newly appointed to the convening Senate;
Establishing the existence of a quorum doping administrative resolution to adopt rules of procedure for the new Congress, which unanimously approves a date other than the convening date on which bills and joint resolutions to elect a new President pro tempore and one or more Senate officials can be introduced, if it gives a vacancy or a change in party control. “
The President of the Senate (also known as the Vice President) then leads a special session with members of Congress to count the votes. There are 538 votes and a candidate must win at least 270. Each vote read is then counted in alphabetical order by two candidates each from the House of Representatives and the Senate. The President of the Senate announces the numbers and listens to any objections.
At the same time, the transition team can work within these 75 days. Key activities during this period (as outlined in the Presidential Transition Guide) include: “Occupation of the White House and Agencies; Use agency review teams to visit agencies; Strengthening the political and management agendas and timetable of the elected president; and identify key talent needed to implement the new president’s priorities. “
The next president will be sworn in on January 20 at noon. At this stage, the new administration sets the President’s top priorities and identifies the staff and officers who will work to achieve these immediate goals. It is estimated that over 4,000 political appointments will be made.
The importance of a peaceful transition
The peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent to the new government has a long American tradition. When George Washington voluntarily resigned his presidency, it became an unbroken practice for presidents to give up power after losing an election.
On a practical level, a change of government between administrations is required because the US federal government is one of the largest organizations. Transferring control at this level is quite complex. Without an appropriate transition – particularly with regard to national security directives – the security of the nation is at risk.
Symbolically, when the president cedes power after the loss, it means that the will of the voters really governs the country. The denial of the concession threatens the confidence of American citizens in the government, which is already being called into question after cases of voter suppression and confusion about the meaning of the vote. A peaceful transition increases people’s confidence in the democratic process.