In case you haven’t been following the news lately, there’s this pandemic thing called the coronavirus that could wipe out millions of earthlings. Americans are not only concerned with getting infected but not being able to get the orange infection out of the White House in November because the election is on ice.
Thanks for the additional doomsday scenario!
The president can (and does and will) say whatever he wants. But that doesn’t mean it’s legal. He could proclaim that he’s declaring a national emergency and postponing the election indefinitely, but (thankfully!) none of those emergency laws apply to changing when we vote.
The laws are specific and explicit
The Constitution says that Congress sets the “times, places and manner” of federal elections. Federal law schedules presidential elections “on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.” Hence, on November 3rd, 2020. Or as election law specialist Hans von Spakovsky put it:
“The president has no power to change the date of a federal election.”
3 U.S. Code § 7 says the electors — chosen by states — who vote in the Electoral College, “shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.” This year, it’s December 14th. So there’s not much room for interpretation, unless Trump claims there are 35 days in October and 50 in November.
More good Constitutional news
The Constitution says the president can only “hold his Office during the Term of four Years.” Thus, after four years, the president’s term expires. It’s like magic, but with democracy. January 20th would be his last day of authority.
The 10th Amendment mandates that people in charge of running elections are state officials and don’t report to the White House. The president only commands federal agents. Likewise, federal officials have no control over the movement within a state, just between states. Justin Levitt, the leader of the Justice Department’s Voting Section under Obama, told Buzzfeed News:
“The president saying we are not having an election until X date has as much authority as me saying it, which is zero. He might well try, even though the answer is, ‘No, he cannot.’”
A lone technicality
The president’s term COULD POTENTIALLY be extended by amending the Constitution. However, that would require two-thirds of both the Senate and House, the latter of which isn’t happening with a comfortable Pelosi-led majority.
What you can do
If your state doesn’t already have no-fault absentee voting (the right to vote absentee for any reason), call your Governor, Senator, and House Members.