On November 7th, multiple news outlets called the presidential race declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Since that time, Trump has refused to concede, which has stymied the formal transition process from beginning.
Under the 1963 Presidential Transition Act, federal law requires the General Services Administration to “ascertain” a candidate, in this case Joe Biden, to be the “apparent president-elect” before the federal government releases funding, office space, access to federal officials, and national security intelligence briefings.
With less than 75 days to go until the inauguration of Joe Biden, and the General Services Administration is dragging their feet on signing off on the election results. Aside from being denied federal office space, the Biden transition team is missing out on about $10 million in federal funding for staffing and other transition needs.
The last time a presidential transition was frozen was after the 2000 election between then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. The race came down to a few hundred votes in the battleground state of Florida, and it took the GSA five weeks to approve the start of the formal transition process.
In the recent GSA statement, the agency cited the contested 2000 election where George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner over Al Gore as “prior precedent.” However, that decision came only after a December Supreme Court ruling.
Here’s why the 2020 election is not like the presidential election of 2000:
On the night of the 2000 election, Bush had won 246 electoral votes and Gore had 250. The threshold to win the presidency is 270. The outcome hinged on Florida’s 25 electoral votes. In the 2020 election, the electoral votes are not as close as they were in 2000. Biden has already secured 279 while Trump has 214 votes.
Before all of the polls closed, Florida was prematurely called in favor of Gore, but after the polls closed and more votes were tallied, the vote margin between Bush and Gore fell into recount territory.
The reason the 2000 election found its way into recount territory is because the electoral votes were close, and in Florida, the final result was a close enough margin to require a mandatory recount (by machine) under state law.
In order for Trump to make up ground and exceed Biden in the Electoral College vote, he would need to flip a multitude of states, which even with his call for a recount in Georgia and Arizona would not get him close to meeting the required 270 number.
The GSA is stifling the transition process as a last-ditch attempt to allow Trump to maintain power. This stalling tactic undermines our electoral process and only further tears the fabric of American democracy.
It may be a stretch to call what the GSA is doing without precedent. The states will certify their election results on December 8th, but hopefully, the GSA will sign off on the election long before then.
Either way, with or without a signature, Joe Biden is the President-elect and will be sworn in on January 20, 2021.