As we’re seeing states across the country delay primary and caucus voting, and an announced postponement of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the question has been tossed around whether there could be an attempt, or a valid reason, to delay the 2020 Presidential Election in November.
The potential reason, of course, lies solely with the Coronavirus pandemic, but now former vice president Joe Biden is predicting that President Trump could try to delay the election for his own political gain.
In a recent interview, Biden alleged that the President will concoct some reason, in Biden’s opinion, to delay the election:
Joe Biden said Thursday that he believes President Donald Trump will try and delay the November election.
“Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” the former vice president and apparent Democratic presidential nominee said during an online fundraiser.
“Imagine threatening not to fund the post office. Now, what in God’s name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote,” Biden said. “That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”
The allegation could be moot since the presidential election should really be understood as fifty separate state elections to choose electors to the Electoral College. In other words, the federal government, and by extension the Trump administration, has very little to do with conducting a presidential election even though the position being contested is part of the executive branch in the federal government.
According to NBC News with some mild research, the constitution does not grant any power to the executive branch to postpone or delay a presidential election, nor has such a delay ever occurred even in times of national distress:
An 1845 law sets the date for states to appoint presidential electors, “which represents the date by which voters in every state must cast their ballot,” and nothing in the Constitution or by Congress grants the president the power to postpone an election, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“During previous episodes of war, pandemic, or other deadly crises in American history, the presidential election date has never been changed in response to an emergency,” the research service said.
Aside from delaying the election, which is likely out of the question, there are other ideas kicking around to make voting more accessible and prevent the requirement for voters to show up in person to cast their ballots. One such idea has been for states to expand their vote-by-mail option and make the process more robust before Election Day in November.
Despite President Trump’s objections, more and more localities are looking into expanding the option for the 2020 election:
State laws typically bar counties from sending absentee ballots to voters who have not requested them, so sending request forms is the next best thing.
Democrats across the country have been pushing to expand voting by mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the November election, but they have run into GOP opposition.
Trump has led the charge, claiming without evidence that mail ballots “cheat,” even though he himself requested an absentee ballot from Palm Beach County to vote in Florida’s March 17 presidential primary.
The idea is that even if counties and local municipalities cannot simply send blanket absentee ballot forms, they can send blanket absentee request forms and instruct voters on how to fill them out. It would be up to the voter to return the request, at which point the voter would receive an absentee ballot to vote in the November election.
State laws vary on the topic, and some states already allow generous vote-by-mail options for their constituents. In other areas, local governments are becoming more creative to ease concerns of voter safety in November of fear that a COVID-19 resurgence could occur in the Fall.
The President has voiced concerns of the potential for fraud and abuse with expanded vote-by-mail options across the country:
During his daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, President Donald Trump made very clear that voting by mail — an alternative many are suggesting to deal with the ongoing stay-at-home directives — is a very bad thing. And more than that, he suggested, it’s deeply corrupt.
“No, mail ballots, they cheat,” said Trump. “OK, people cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they are cheaters.”
Most data tends to agree that vote-by-mail options do not produce any more measurable fraud or errors when compared to in-person voting, but not everyone agrees with that. The conservative Heritage Foundation put out a paper in early April alleging that vote-by-mail makes errors and fraud more likely, simply by adding the extra steps along the way.
With vote-by-mail seen as a viable option by two-thirds of Americans, according to one poll, it doesn’t seem as though there would be a valid reason to delay the November election even if in-person voting was deemed too dangerous due to concerns over the Coronavirus.
The NBC story also notes that the President hasn’t raised this issue of an election delay, the question seems to be coming only from Joe Biden, at this point:
Trump has not made any comments about delaying the Nov. 3 election, and he does not have the power to do so unilaterally.
At this point, Joe Biden may be simply trying to raise the issue and get people talking about how to ensure that voters have access to ballots and the ability to vote safely in November.
Could the voting landscape look different this year? It’s possible, as more states discover new ways to expand voter access. There are also concerns as this expansion occurs that new forms of fraud or increased errors could follow whenever new government plans or programs are enacted. Luckily, there are states which rely heavily on vote-by-mail to serve as examples for states and localities freshly looking into the practice.
The real headline here is that the vote-by-mail fight will only increase as we head closer to November and more states announce their intention to expand the option.