US President Donald Trump today suggested the idea of delaying the upcoming general elections in November. Even though the constitution does not give him the authority to do so, his tendency to push the envelope led many to wonder if it (delay) is possible.
The reason he offered for delaying the elections is possible voter fraud in mail-in voting.
"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," he wrote. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely, and safely vote???"
Considering that many states are looking to increase postal voting due to coronavirus pandemic, a large population will choose to vote in via mail.
Donald Trump's unfounded voter fraud allegation
Donald Trump has long alleged that there are high chances of voter fraud in the vote-in-mail system even though there is little evidence to back his claim. On the contrary, he himself voted by mail in August, 2020 for Florida's primary election as he is a registered voter there but was in Washington DC at that time.
Now, coronavirus threat in place, can Trump delay the elections slated to be held in November?
The answer is twisted. Let's figure out how:
Constitutionally, Donald Trump is not authorized to change or delay the presidential election which according to the Constitution has to be held every four.
US Constitution though hasn't set the date for the election but according to a law dating back to 1845, the US presidential election has to be held on Tuesday after the first Monday of November. In 2020, it is falling on Nov 3.
Only Congress can change the date of election
If for any unforeseen reason, the date for the election has to be delayed then it can happen only by the act of Congress that requires majority approval in both the Houses, which is highly unlikely in the current situation.
Secondly, the Constitution mandates that the tenure of the US president has to expire after every four years. This translates into the fact that Trump and all his administration's members' tenure will expire on 20 January, 2021.
These two factors explicitly make it clear that Trump can not hold on to the post of the president even if he wants to delay the election.
Now coming to the possibility of what could happen if anyhow the election is delayed.
In a scenario of a delayed election, the Speaker of the house would become the temporary head until the presidential election is held.
As in the current situation, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, constitutionally she would be expected to take up the position.
But noting that even her term is going to expire in December, there would be two possibilities.
First, if she is reelected as the Speaker then she can continue to be the temporary president until the presidential election is held.
And as California, where Nancy Pelosi is a registered voter, has mail-in ballots, Pelosi could be reelected.
Else, next in line would be the most senior person in the Congress, who presently is 86 year-old Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Even that is not certain because a third of 100 Republicans are going to vacate their seats as their therm is going to expire.