President Donald Trump on Thursday morning tweeted that the 2020 presidential election should be delayed because, in his opinion, “Universal Mail-In Voting” would result in “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” the president tweeted. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
As Law&Crime has thoroughly explained before under slightly different contexts, the date of the U.S. presidential election is codified in federal statutes. 3 U.S.C. § 1 sets the date as follows: “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.” Similarly, 2 U.S.C. § 7 sets the date for the election of U.S. senators and representatives on the same day. In other words, the date cannot be changed without Congress changing the laws which set the date. The Senate is controlled by Republicans; the House is controlled by Democrats. It is unlikely the parties would come to a compromise which would allow the election date to be moved.
Elsewhere, 3 U.S.C. § 2 contains a provision for an election failure in “any State.” In such an event, the legislature of that state may shuffle things around: “the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.” In other words, if there is a true election failure, the states who suffer the failure take control. The federal government and the president do not.
As Law&Crime (and others) have also duly noted, the president’s term of office ends “at noon on the 20th day of January . . . and the terms of their successors shall then begin.” That language is straight out of the 20th Amendment, and neither Trump nor Congress alone can change that.
Accordingly, Trump’s tweet was swiftly blasted by both liberals and conservatives, including those who have defended Trump profusely in the past:
This is not an idea anyone, especially POTUS, should float. Our democracy is based on elections in which everyone knows the rules and they apply to all. Election Day is and will be Nov 3, 2020. Mr. President – please don’t even pretend to mess with this. It’s a harmful idea. https://t.co/bbBJbkNigV
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) July 30, 2020
Trump CANNOT delay the election. Date of the general election is set by federal law, fixed since 1845. It would take a change in federal law – an act of Congress – to move that date.
If he wants people to safely vote, he should urge the Senate to pass $3.6B in election funding. https://t.co/uyoZbjB5rF
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) July 30, 2020
Could this be why Trump is tweeting about delaying the presidential election? https://t.co/XuQRflrUpE
— Deepak Gupta (@deepakguptalaw) July 30, 2020
Even if he delays the election, the Constitution makes it so that he stops being president at 12 p.m. on January 20. What happens after that gets complicated, but what’s not complicated is that his term will end precisely then. https://t.co/ktoLipE1ov
— Katie Barlow (@katieleebarlow) July 30, 2020
Never in American history—not even during the Civil War and World War II–has there been a successful move to “Delay the Election” for President.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) July 30, 2020
I’m sorry but an American President calling for delaying an election in which he is trailing in the polls is not OK. https://t.co/c048z8nD7t
— George Callas (@George_A_Callas) July 30, 2020
The President has absolutely no ability to delay the election. https://t.co/rzVbENi28t
— Josh Douglas (@JoshuaADouglas) July 30, 2020
"Delay the Election": a classic authoritarian rallying cry.
Thankfully, Trump CANNOT "delay the election" on his own.
— Joshua A. Geltzer (@jgeltzer) July 30, 2020
An assumption here is that president cares about the law. https://t.co/DBwj4fx4O5
— Cristian Farias (@cristianafarias) July 30, 2020
A few reporters raised a few interesting contextual points:
Biden said in April: "Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held.” https://t.co/l9hamLrzt2
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 30, 2020
This did not age well https://t.co/hgJXna0h6F
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) July 30, 2020
CNN banner gets it right, right away: "TRUMP FLOATS DELAYING ELECTION DESPITE LACK OF AUTHORITY TO DO SO" pic.twitter.com/MELvo1c7US
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 30, 2020
[Image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.]
Editor’s note: this report has been updated with additional context after its initial publication.
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