President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted a question about whether the 2020 presidential election should possibly be postponed because of a chance of voter fraud.
Trump asked, “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???”
In addition to setting off social media sites, the president's tweet has raised questions about who controls when and how elections occur in the United States.
Here’s what we know about electing a president and when elections happen.
Can a presidential election be postponed?
Yes, under certain circumstances an election can be postponed.
Can the president order the postponement or delay of an election on his own?
No. The president has no constitutional authority to postpone an election.
How would it be postponed? Would it be easy to do?
It would definitely not be easy to do.
It would take a change in the federal law that sets the date of federal elections. The law passed in 1846 says that an election will take place “on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.”
To change it would take a bill passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.
What does the Constitution say about it?
The Constitution has few hard and fast set dates, but the beginning and end of a president’s term are two of them. The 20th Amendment says that “the terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.”
So, on that date, whether there was an election held in the fall or not, the terms of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will end.
In addition, the Constitution mandates that the new Congress be sworn in on Jan. 3, and that the new president and vice president be officially chosen that day by a vote of “electors” in the Electoral College.
The Constitution would have to be amended to allow for a change in those dates. Normal legislation cannot change those dates.
What if the president tried to declare a national emergency to postpone an election?
While the president has the power to declare a national emergency, he can only use those emergency powers that are available to him by federal law.
In other words, if a president cannot by federal law change the time of an election, then an emergency declaration does not give him that power.
Can a federal law be passed to disallow mail-in voting?
No. Individual states determine how votes are cast.
What would it take for the presidential election to be postponed?
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