President insists America can’t delay opening schools. But now must consider delaying Election Day?
So c’mon: the President just wants a time shift on the election that would last long enough that he’s not losing. Hey, maybe longer even…
Because with all the challenges COVID-19 is creating to voting in an atmosphere of safety, it’s a one-time, one-off thing, and there are many viable ways to do it. Some of which (including mail-in voting), have been done in many states for years. And in some states, mail-in voting is virtually the only way to vote, and that was even before the Coronavirus. (And those aren’t exclusively Democrat dominated states.)
Yet the President (and his Attorney General), keep hammering at the fact that a lot of mail-in voting, which is totally legal where it’s legal, which is in most places, will be “INACCURATE AND FRAUDULENT” and a “great embarrassment”.
And now, today, for the first time, he’s extended that argument to raising the question of delaying the election:
Interesting the President finally breached the gap very, very soon after the Treasury Department revealed the U.S. economy shrank 9.5% April-June this year, its biggest quarterly drop ever, for an annual decline of nearly 33% (which would be unheard of in modern times, although extremely unlikely to end the year with that drastic a rate of cumulative decline).
Which makes Trump’s repeated insistence that the U.S. economy is going to look pretty good before the Presidential election seem like even more of a pipe dream. And the President does know that if he doesn’t have the economy to run on, he’s at a severe disadvantage to say the least, no matter how you measure everything else about his leadership, or lack thereof.
So can he delay the election?
Not alone he can’t. States and Congress would have to intervene. But this is potentially a little tricky, because while we keep seeing stories referring to Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, that says only Congress regulates “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives”. So with our usual disclaimer that we’re not lawyers, we don’t see the word “President” in there. Now, the 20th Amendment does talk about the “President”:
“The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”
Meaning Presidents pretty clearly can’t stay in office beyond their terms, which would seem to at least put a deadline on everything.
And individual states largely control their own voting systems, and that includes whether to allow mail-in voting or not. And as we said, in some states they already have all mail-in voting anyway.
But there are legal maneuvers Trump’s lackeys can and probably will attempt to make. Trump’s no stranger to using lawsuit after lawsuit to attack and keep people on the defensive or at least highly distracted, or get out of doing things he’s required or compelled to do. Flooding the zone with legal challenges to any little tweak any state makes to lessen the challenges posed by voting during COVID-19 is almost a given.
There’d be an obvious irony to Trump’s people suddenly supporting dramatic Election Day changes in reaction to COVID-19: it’d put the President’s supporters in the position of suddenly advocating for a delay in the election on the basis of the dangers posed by the pandemic, when up til now—when they thought it would benefit them—they’ve been arguing repeatedly that people should not be cut any slack and forced to show up on designated dates, despite the pandemic. Texas fought long and hard not to let anyone use fear of catching COVID-19 as an excuse for not presenting themselves at the polls. (And they won.)
When Joe Biden, months ago, suggested Trump was going to pull just this very stunt, he was excoriated in right wing media.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has been remarkably rigid so far this election cycle when it’s weighed in on cases that involved attempts to seek even small relief and allow even small changes to voting due to safety hazards posed by COVID-19. So while one can never predict what they’ll do in the future, it’s hard to believe they will all of a sudden grant a huge concession at the request of Trump.
A lot will depend now on the behavior of Republicans in Congress. Because if they move in lock step with the President and make a lot of noise on supporting an election date change, forcing Democrats to be the ones to put their feet down and say no, it will turn this too into a purely partisan issue, not one of lurching authoritarianism and Constitutional abuse. And that would fuel the potential effectiveness with which the President can challenge election results after the fact, if they don’t suit him.