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Trump spoke about postponing the presidential election: is he entitled to do it

On Thursday, July 30, US President Donald Trump proposed to postpone the presidential elections scheduled for November 3, saying that the increase in the number of voters by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic would lead to fraud. AP.

Photo: Shutterstock

This is the first time Trump has publicly expressed the idea of ​​canceling the vote. The postponement of the election date is almost impossible, but a simple proposal for a postponement was unusual in a country where a peaceful transfer of power took place, including during the civil war, the Great Depression and World War II.

The date for the presidential election - the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every fourth year - is enshrined in federal law and requires changes to an act of Congress. There is no constitutional provision to extend Trump's presidential term beyond noon January 20, 2021.

“Given the universal suffrage by mail, the 2020 election will be the most misleading and fraudulent in history. This will be a huge shame for the United States. [Can] postpone the elections so that people can vote properly, calmly and safely ??? ” - reads Trump's tweet.


Only five states hold elections solely by mail, although by November, due to the ongoing pandemic, more states expect to partially rely on this method of voting. California has announced plans to send ballots to all voters registered for the fall elections, but they will also have the opportunity to vote in person.

Trump's tweet came just minutes after the government announced that the U.S. economy collapsed at a record 32,9% in the second quarter, the worst quarterly decline ever since the coronavirus outbreak caused business to stop and unemployment rose to 14,7. XNUMX%.

Just three months before Election Day, Trump's rating is not very high in polls across the country and in individual states, including traditionally pro-republican ones. Survey data showed that there is a high probability that Trump could sharply lose the electorate if he does not change anything.

The US president is increasingly trying to question the November elections and the accuracy of remote voting. He called this type of voting “the biggest risk” for his re-election. His campaign team and the GOP have taken legal action to combat this practice, which was once a significant advantage for the party. In June, Trump said during a speech in Arizona: "This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country."

Meanwhile, there is no evidence of widespread mail-order fraud, and states that use it say they have the necessary precautions to ensure security. Election security experts say all forms of electoral fraud in the United States is rare, including absentee voting.

Most states are still preparing their plans for November. Some of them sent ballots to voters during the primaries, but most states will not do so in November. Voters will have to request absentee voting if they wish to do so at home.

Voters and public health officials raised concerns about the potential for spreading the virus during face-to-face voting, and states have reported difficulties filling jobs amid the pandemic.

On the subject: “There will be no peaceful transfer of power”: can Trump cancel the election and remain president

Leading Republicans in Congress quickly rejected Trump's proposal to postpone the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the date for the election was accurate and GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said the election "should go" as planned.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida said the elections will be held on time, "will be legitimate, and people should be sure of it."

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump's tweet by quoting from the Constitution, which mandates Congress to determine when elections are held.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire also reacted quickly to Trump's idea: “Make no mistake: the election will take place in New Hampshire on November 3. End of the story. Our voting system is reliable and secure. We've done it right 100% of the time in 100 years - this year will be no different. "

Hogan Gidley, national spokesman for the Trump campaign, pointed to delays in the counting of votes in the New York City primary.

“The President is simply raising the issue of the chaos that the Democrats have created with their insistence on mail-order voting. They are using the coronavirus as a vehicle to try to establish universal voting by mail, which means sending every registered voter a ballot, whether they asked for it or not, ”Gidley said.

Trump and many members of his administration have previously used absentee voting, but Trump has tried to differentiate this from growing pressure from states to send all registered voters either ballots or absentee voting forms.

“He has absolutely no mandate to do this,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Justice Center at New York University Law School. "It's just a way to wreak havoc."

Just months ago, in April, Trump ruled out the possibility of changing the election date after his Democrat rival Joe Biden predicted Trump would do so.

“I never even thought about changing the election date,” he said. - Why would I do this? Third November. It's a good date. No, I am looking forward to this election. I don't think about changing the date at all. "

Earlier, in March, Trump opposed attempts by several states to postpone presidential primaries due to the coronavirus.

Does Trump have the right and legal ability to postpone the election?

The answer is clear: no.

Let's start with the Constitution itself: “Congress can determine when the electors are to be elected and the day when they must cast their votes; this day will be the same throughout the United States, " Bloomberg.

The founding document reflects the unequivocal judgment that Congress, and not a potentially interested president, decides on the choice of the leader of the United States. If the president could set a time for his election, he could indicate a favorable date for him (or postpone that date until conditions are right).

Congress exercises the powers that the Constitution gives it. A law passed in 1948 reads:

"Electors for president and vice president are to be appointed in each state on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, in every fourth year that follows each election for president and vice president."

The curious reader might reply: These provisions relate to the selection of members of the Electoral College. What does this have to do with voting?

The answer is that everything is inextricably linked. Under the Constitution, of course, the winner of the election is the candidate who gets the most votes in the electoral college. Each state has a designated number of voters whose votes are generally awarded (under state law) to the winning candidate in that state's popular vote.

In practice, the indication by Congress of the "time for the appointment of electors" is also an indication of the time for popular vote. It is true that Congress may change the date. But since Democrats control the House of Representatives, that's not very likely (unless circumstances get much worse).

And even if Congress decides to do so, it won't help Trump much. According to the 20th Amendment, "the term of office of the President and Vice President ends at noon on January 20th." This means that after the expiration of a four-year term, the president, who has not been re-elected, must step down.

On the subject: Fox News: Trump is upset about bad ratings and may withdraw from the election if his performance doesn't improve

Point? Not really. It has long been debated whether the president has some kind of inalienable "extraordinary power." Trump seems to think he has this power (and more). But the Constitution does not directly provide the president with anything like that.

The most interesting decision of the Supreme Court in this regard is known as the Youngstown Steel Case, and it is one of the most important in the country's history. In 1952, President Harry Truman issued an executive order to control steel mills in the United States. He argued that a possible strike on them could lead to national disaster at the height of the Korean War.

In a nationwide address, Truman explained: “Our national security and our chances of peace depend on our defense industry. Our defense industry depends on steel. "

By law, the government argued that, under the Constitution, Truman has "inalienable power" to do what he did - power that he believes is "supported by the Constitution, historical precedent and judicial decisions."

The Supreme Court flatly rejected this argument. He said: “The founders of this country entrusted legislative power to Congress in both good and bad times. There is no point in recalling historical events, fears of power and hopes for freedom that underlie their choice. "

The possibility cannot be ruled out that Trump's lawyers will make a constitutional argument that will support whatever he wants to do, or that he will ignore legal restrictions on his powers. In this case, the country may find itself in a constitutional crisis and face authoritarianism in its defining form.

Miscellaneous In the U.S. U.S. election U.S. election U.S. Presidential Election

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