US Politics

Can Trump really postpone the US election?

US President Donald Trump has been criticised for suggesting the election should be postponed. Source: STRMX

The US President Donald Trump tweeted that November’s presidential election should be delayed.

It is less than 100 days until the US election that will see Americans vote for their next president: Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

The country is in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more people than any other country in the world.

State jurisdictions are trying to manage how citizens will head to the polls safely, which has sparked claims by Trump that this election will be the "most inaccurate and fraudulent in history". He then said that the election should be postponed. 

Trump Again Assails Mail-In Voting
Trump is not a fan of Universal Mail-In Voting.
The New York Times

Why does he want to delay?

Trump has proposed to postpone the election until people can  "properly, securely and safely" vote.

He wants to delay the election because some states are turning to ‘Universal Mail-In Voting’ as another voting option. This is a practice where states automatically mail a ballot to all registered voters within the state -- a ballot that can then be cast by mail or returned in-person to various polling sites. 

In the US, each state is responsible for its own electoral rules. That means each state is grappling with how to conduct an election during a pandemic. Some are turning to Universal Mail-In Voting, including California, Utah, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

Trump has said that this practice will lead to fraud and “rig the election.” A tweet in May led him to be fact-checked by Twitter for the first time.

This was fact-checked by Twitter because there is no evidence Universal Mail-In Voting would lead to more voter fraud or rig the election.

This week, Trump has threatened to sue the state of Nevada to stop Universal Mail-In Voting after Democratic politicians passed a bill that would send mail-in ballots to every voter ahead of November's presidential election in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president is facing less than favourable polling numbers, which show Biden up by an average of 7.4 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

Other polls suggest Trump’s opponent Joe Biden is eating into the base that won him the 2016 election, the so-called big "blue" wall in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to CNN polling, Biden is up by 9 points in Michigan, 11 points in Pennsylvania and 10 points in Wisconsin.

Can he delay the election?

Trump has no authority to delay the presidential election. The date for the US election is set by federal laws and can only be changed by Congress, which is majority Democrat, who are unlikely to share Trump’s motivations.

 A federal statute outlines that:

“The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.”

The presidency and vice presidency, as outlined in the 20th Amendment,  “shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” So, even if Trump convinced Congress to delay the election, and that date was beyond January, his term would expire. 

The US has never moved Election Day, which has run on schedule through the Civil War, Spanish Flu and the Great Depression. 

Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event.
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event.

Why is this significant?

Trump is stating more frequently that he will not accept the results of an election. This could delegitimise the election if he loses and announces that he refuses to accept the results.