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Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Down Ballot Vote

As is always the case in presidential election years, the public’s major focus is on who should they select to be the President for the next four years. Every fifth presidential election also occurs coincident with the completion of the decennial census. Following the tabulation of the census, which will be 2021, all states will undergo a reapportionment process based on the shifts in population throughout the country and within each state. Generally, the apportionment of districts and the district lines are done by state legislatures with the approval of the Governor. These highly politicized negotiations become critical within the States and within the Congress. Political control of one or both houses of the state legislature as well as the Governors’ Mansions have an enormous impact on the legislative activity for the next decade at both the state level as well as within the Congress.

This fall voters will not only have to select 35 Senators, 23 seats currently held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats, but also 435 Members of the House of Representatives, where Democrats currently hold a 223-193 lead over Republicans. For the purpose of reapportionment, however, it at least as important to note that there are eleven Governors who are up for re-election where seven Governorships are currently held by Republicans and four by Democrats. Finally, down the ballot Republicans currently hold an edge over Democrats of 31-19 in control of State Senates and 29-20 in control of State Houses (or Assemblies.)

The impact that a presidential victory and especially the size of the popular vote, on those running “down ballot” is enormous. These results will set the political parameters in Congress and in State Legislatures for the next decade, beginning immediately with the fight on reapportionment.


Presidential Transition

There was a time when life was simple. When a new President arrived in the White House there was plenty of time to organize a new Administration. Since the Presidential Transition Act was passed in 1963, presidential transition has now been codified into law. Funds now are made available for the purpose of providing an incoming President and his staff extensive briefing material and support. The goal of this statute as expanded and amended many times is to facilitate a smooth transition of power on Inauguration Day.

There has been growing curiosity raised by reporters and numerous news outlets as to whether, if President Trump were to lose, would he accept the results of the voters and the Electoral College. This leads to the question of whether a Trump Administration would facilitate the transition if Vice-President Biden were to defeat President Trump.

In 2016, it should be noted that President Obama’s departments and agencies had prepared transition materials as they awaited Election Day. Governor Chris Christie had been tasked by candidate Trump to prepare a transition team beginning in the spring of 2016 in the event that Trump was elected. After the election it was widely reported that then President-elect Trump disregarded or made little use of all the briefing material and background books. Should Trump lose in November it is quite likely that an incoming Biden transition team might well find empty cupboards with few or no briefing books as they prepare to takeover governing the country.

The critical problem in the fall and winter is that a Biden transition would occur in the midst of a frightening pandemic and a staggering economic crisis, both of which, to date, have been totally mishandled and mismanaged. If indeed there is only minimal cooperation from the Trump Administration, the country will be forced to watch a new Biden team, no matter how talented they might be, take over these crises on the run with limited guidance from the departing Administration.

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