How the Presidential Transfer of Power Works, In Terms a Child Could Understand
The election is over, and we have chosen a new president and vice president—but how do we peacefully transfer power from our current president to a new one? With Inauguration Day quickly approaching and President-Elect Biden all over the news, your children may be asking you questions about why Biden hasn’t started his new job yet, how a new president was decided, and where they will live and work.
I’ve spent more than 15 years as a political strategist—interviewing prominent women like Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Nancy Pelosi for my podcast Your Presidential Playlist —but some of the hardest-hitting political questions I get are from my kids, two, four, and 9 months. Based on these conversations, I’ve broken down how to explain what happens next in five easy steps.
What happened on Election Day?
There were two people running to be president on Election Day: former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. A record-breaking more than 150 million people voted to decide who would become the president of the United States. After the votes were carefully counted, Biden won more votes, so he will be our next president. (This is where the Electoral College also comes into play and our guide explains all about that.) But we didn’t learn the results on Election Day.
Why didn’t we know who won on Election Day?
Usually on Election Day, most people go to vote in person, so it's fairly easy to count the votes in each state and add them up to learn who won by the end of the day.
However, this year, because of Covid 19, people were nervous about having lots of voters gathering in places where it might be hard to be six feet apart, similar to how schools have been closed and kids learning at home. Instead, Election Day was spread out: people could vote early in person, vote on Election Day as they did in the past, or you could put your vote in the mail.
In some states, they first count the votes from Election Day, then they start counting the votes that were mailed. In other states, it might have taken a bit longer for the votes to arrive by mail, which means it takes a bit longer to count. That’s why it took a couple of days to count them.
What happens between now and the day the new President and Vice President start?
The new president needs time to get ready—in the same way your teacher uses the summer to get ready for a new school year. This is what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, our next vice president, are doing until they start their new jobs on January 20, the day set by the Constitution.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a long list of things to do before January 20th. Becoming president and vice president is like having a very long chore chart, with everything from making your bed to clearing the table, and getting dressed yourself. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ chore chart probably includes all of those things, but also includes things like figuring out what policies they are going to focus on when they start, deciding what rules and laws they want to make or change, and hiring the people they want to work for them in their Cabinet.
- RELATED: Why I Take My Child to Vote
What is peaceful Transfer of Power?
The peaceful transfer of power is what happens when our current president and vice president leave and our next president and vice president take over the job. All of the work leading up to that day is part of the transfer of power from one president to the next.
The current president and all the people they have working for them will help the new president’s team ready to start their jobs on January 20. Things like what are the passwords for Zoom meetings, what the status is of things they were working on, and recent calls they had with their friends in other countries all need to be shared with the new president.
The new president has an idea of what they want to do, but they also need to know where the old president left off.
What do the new President and Vice President want to do when they start?
Once they are moved in, the new president needs to set their new policies and tell the country what they plan on doing. President-elect Biden will need to decide things like how to get everyone a coronavirus vaccine and help people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
And move in the most important two new residents, Major and Champ Biden, two German Shepherds!