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Delay the Election? Trump Hemmed In by Constitution

Newser — Newser Editors

President Trump just went there. In a morning tweet on Thursday, he raised the possibility of delaying the Nov. 3 election because of the pandemic.

But as many have been quick to point out, the president doesn't have the authority to make such a move himself. Coverage:

  • The Constitution: It gives Congress, not the president, the power to set the date.

Officially, Election Day takes place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a date that has been fixed since 1845, per the New York Times.

What's more, the Constitution stipulates that presidential terms end on Jan. 20. Barring a change to the Constitution, then, any voting delay could only be for a few weeks.

  • What Trump said: "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???" He didn't explicitly suggest he would push for the move.

Later, he "pinned" the tweet, ensuring it would remain at the top of his feed.

"In general, a combination of state or congressional actions could delay elections but not postpone the selection of a president and vice president," per the post.

"The only hard deadline spelled out in the Constitution is the end of a president's term and a vice president's term on January 20 of the year following a general election."

  • Emergency? No, not even in an emergency such as a pandemic can a president circumvent Congress on Election Day, per a breakdown in the Washington Post.

Trump could lobby Congress to make the change, but Democrats control the House, making this all but a non-starter.

  • Criticism: It's coming from Democrats and Republicans.

"Please don't even pretend to mess with this," wrote Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush. "It's a harmful idea." GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming stated flatly on Fox News, "We will not delay the [election]." At the conservative Hot Air site, Ed Morrissey sounds exasperated.

"The best that could be said for this tweet is that Trump's just spitballing, but even that's an indictment of its own," he writes. "No president should just be spitballing a suggestion like this, not in public and not even in private." Besides, he adds, Trump keeps saying we should "reopen for business."

  • Fraud allegation: Trump continues to allege that mail-in ballots are prone to voter fraud, but the Hill reports there is "no evidence to support the idea." An NPR fact-check also finds that Trump is spreading "unfounded claims." Trump, for his part, tweeted a link to this news station's investigation into problems with mail-in voting in Philadelphia, notes Breitbart News.
  • Things change: In April, Trump ridiculed Joe Biden's prediction that the president would try to postpone the election, notes Axios.

"I never even thought of changing the date of the election," Trump said at the time. "Why would I do that? November 3rd. It's a good number. No, I look forward to that election."

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