Citing suspicion of fraud and inaccurate results, the US President Donald Trump has suggested the postponement of 2020 Presidential Elections.
He discussed the idea of a delay until people could “properly, securely and safely” vote.
There is not whole lot evidence to support Trump’s claims but he has long campaigned against mail-in voting which he has said would be susceptive to fraud.
American states want to enable easier postal voting due to public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump doesn’t have the authority to delay these elections himself, per the United States Constitution. In fact, this decision must be vetted by Congress and the President does not have any direct power over the two houses of Congress.
What Exactly Did Trump Say?
In a barrage of tweets, Mr. Trump said “universal mail-in voting” would make November’s vote the “most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history” and a “great embarrassment to the USA”.
He suggested – without any evidence, of course – that mail-in voting, as it is known in the US, could be manipulated by foreign interference.
“The [Democrats] talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race,” he said.
Trump also said postal voting was “already proving to be a catastrophic disaster” in areas where it was being tested.
One of the biggest reasons why this method has been derided is the fact that in this particular example, there have been some very long delays when ballots were counted and more importantly, that the results are still unknown.
Various US-based media have reported that there are also concerns that many ballots will not be accounted for because they were not filled in precisely or do not have postmarks on them that show they were sent before voting officially ended.
What reaction has there been?
Questioned by reporters on whether a president could delay the election, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would not “enter a legal judgment on the fly”. When pushed, he said the justice department would “make that legal determination”, adding “we want an election that everyone is confident in”.
Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the US Federal Election Commission, said Trump did not have the power to move the election – and added: “Nor should it be moved.” She called for more funding for states to be able to run “the safe and secure elections all Americans want”.
Numerous Republicans – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – also rejected the idea.
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” McCarthy said. Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile said a delay was “not a good idea”.
Democrats have also voiced their concerns and condemned Trump’s suggestion. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall said there was “no way” the president could delay the election.
“But the fact that he is even suggesting it is a serious, chilling attack on the democratic process. All members of Congress – and the administration – should speak out,” he said.
However, Chris Stewart, a Republican congressman from Utah, said that while he was not in favor of delaying the election, Trump had a reasonable point about postal voting being hard to monitor.
“Can you ensure the accuracy of mail-in voting? Now in some states, you can. In my state in Utah, for example, we’ve been doing it for quite a while, but we’re a small state with a relatively small population. It’s harder to do on a national scale,” he told the BBC.
Who can change the election date?
What we can tell right now is that President Trump does not have the authority to move the date of the election, which is usually held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Any change of date would need to be approved by the two houses of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats control the House of Representatives and some have already said they will not support any delay to the vote.
Any move by Congress to delay the election into 2021 would also require a constitutional amendment, US media quoted constitutional experts as saying. The amendment would be needed to change the dates for swearing-in members of Congress and the new presidential administration, according to NPR.
Finally, legal experts quoted by NBC said that even if Congress did agree to delay the election, Trump’s own term as president would still expire by 20 January 2021 under the constitution’s 20th Amendment.
Which states are holding postal votes?
Earlier in July, there were six US states that were planning to hold ballot elections exclusively by mail in November: California, Utah, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Other states are considering it, according to a postal voting campaign group.
These states will automatically send postal ballots to all registered voters, which then have to be sent back or dropped off on election day – although some in-person voting is still available in certain limited circumstances.
About half of US states allow any registered voter to cast their ballot by post on request.