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Trump Has No Power to Delay Election as He Suggests

President Donald J. Trump prepares to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Friday, July 24, 2020, to begin his trip to New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour) Date: 24 July 2020, 18:40 Source: President Trump Travels to NJ Author: The White House from Washington, DC

“Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election.”

With the US elections nearly three months away, President Donald Trump tweeted the idea of postponing the event reported. Despite his concerns over mail-in voting, Trump has no power to delay the election, according to federal law. Furthermore, even if he managed to push it back, the Constitution mandates his term end on Jan. 20, 2021.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

The president has often expressed reservations over voting-by-mail, which surged in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, five states have held their elections exclusively by mail even before the health crisis. Furthermore, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and several administration officials have voted by mail.

Trump’s claim that voting-by-mail exacerbates voter fraud is unfounded and Attorney General William Barr has offered no evidence to support the claim.

Can He Do It?

Facts notwithstanding, Trump has suggested postponing the US election. He has no power to delay the election, according to federal law; in order to do so, Congress would have to pass legislation to change that, The New York Times reported.

The power to set a date for the presidential election was vested in the Congress by Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution. 

“The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States,” it reads.

In 1845, the date was set I stone as “the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November.” Prior to this law, elections had lasted for up to a month, as in the case of the 1844 election.

Congress Disagrees

Since the date, which has been respected since its mandate even during the Civil War and both world wars, was set by Congress, it would take the legislature to change it. The prospect of a Democrat-led House agreeing to the notion is virtually nonexistent, according to Reuters.

“Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President’s inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D–Cali., chair of the House committee on election security.

Rep. Jim Himes, D–Conn., said Trump suggested the idea as a way to distract Americans from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 150,000 in the US, including former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

“Folks, don’t take the bait here. Trump has zero authority to delay the election,” Himes tweeted. “But he wants to talk about it.”

Pssst, while you're here...

No Republican Support

The president’s own party in Congress has rebuked the idea as well. 

“Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R–Cali.

Other Republicans were firmer, with North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis declaring “The election is going to happen in November period.”

Some, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, condemned election fraud, but conceded the election cannot be delayed, CNN reported.

Other administration officials, including Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have deferred on the question of whether Trump has the authority to postpone it, although he has no power to delay the election according to laws already on the books.

When he appeared before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Barr said, “I haven’t looked into that question, under the Constitution,” NBC News reported.

Pompeo said he would leave the decision up to the Justice Department, which Barr heads and said “we want an election that everyone is confident in,” BBC News reported.

Complicated Succession

In the unlikely, hypothetical scenario whereby Trump manages to delay the election, altering the inauguration timetable would be another matter entirely as terms are expressly laid out in the Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution.

Section 1 declares, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”

According to the amendment, Trump’s term will end at noon on Jan. 20, 2021, election or no election. Because Pence’s term will also end, the gauntlet would thereby pass to President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Chuck Grassley, R–Iowa. However, that could change as a delay in the elections would prevent new congresspeople from assuming office, thereby reducing the number of sworn-in senators to 65, WUSA9 reported. 

Therefore, the senate would have a Democrat majority that would be empowered to elect a new President Pro Tempore. Grassley is third in line after after Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D–Cali. However, all representatives must be reelected and sworn-in biannually. Without elections, there would effectively be no House installed in January.

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Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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