How executive powers are transferred after a presidential election

As all Americans know, new U.S. presidents don't head to the White House overnight after declaring victory. Instead, there's an important transition process that spans the period between the early months of an election year and the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 of the following year.

While many think of the transition period as a time set from November to January, there are many important decisions that a potential president-elect must make well before the election day. These include assembling a key transition team and forming strategic relationships with politicians and other important figures in the federal government. Once the General Services Administration (GSA) releases a letter of ascertainment, the incoming president officially has access to transition funds and other resources.

These days, a president-elect's transition team regularly updates the press, public, and Congress members about key appointments and policy initiatives during the transition process. However, for most of history, the proceedings were not this public and transparent—this only changed when the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 was passed a decade ago and required the GSA to provide more well-documented support to each president-elect's transition teams.

However, the transition process has been quite different for the current president-elect, Joe Biden, whose win wasn't officially acknowledged by the GSA until Nov. 23, 2020 (16 days after he was declared the winner). This is because President Donald Trump has largely failed to accept his loss and has yet to officially concede to Biden.

To help you understand how exactly a president-elect typically prepares to enter the White House, Stacker compiled a list of 16 key steps taken to transfer executive power from one president to the next. From naming a transition chair to making thousands of political appointments, read on to find out how these powers are transferred in the aftermath of a U.S. political election.

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