Is Trump empowered to delay the election in the USA ?

Election of America

( Reading time 8 minutes )

A presidential election has not been delayed ever in the 244-year history of the institution – not even during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, or the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), or World War II .

Context:

• The U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested, the November elections be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Trump has displayed resistance for mail-in voting, making claims of a rigged election. He has implied that mail-in voting would allow election fraud to occur on a more widespread scale across the US, without offering any evidence.

Does the President of the U.S. have the powers to do so?

• According to the U.S. Constitution, it is Congress, not the President, that decides the timing of the elections.

• A federal law approved on January 25, 1845, has unambiguously set the election timing.

• It can only be changed by passing a new law. Such law would need the approval of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and would be subject to legal challenges.

• Senior leaders have dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestion to postpone the election.

What’s next?

• President Trump’s first term is set to expire at noon on January 20, 2021.

• The 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution moved the beginning and ending of the terms of the President and the Vice-President from March 4 to January 20. These dates cannot be changed.

• Ordinarily, if the presidency is vacant, the Vice-President assumes charge. o But here, the terms of both President Trump and the Vice-President will expire on January 20.

• The House Speaker is the next in the line of succession. o But the two-year term of the current House expires on January 3, 2021. So, Speaker cannot assume the presidency.

• The next in line is the ‘president pro tempore’ of the Senate, largely a ceremonial position.

• According to Article 1, Section Three of the Constitution, the Vice-President is the president of the Senate, and the Senate should choose a president pro tem to act in the absence of the Vice-President.

• If elections are not held in November (for 23 Republican Senate seats and 12 Democrat seats), the current equation of the Senate would change.

• The Democrats would have a majority and they could elect a new president pro tem.

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