The Speaker
Monday, 24 June 2024 – 08:46
US President Donald Trump

Could President Trump actually delay the election?

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that the US Presidential Election for November should be delayed. 

Some countries have delayed elections due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with concerns over the risk of the virus being spread and various logistical issues. Here’s a look at why Trump might want to delay the election, what it could achieve – and whether he can actually do it…


Can Trump delay the election?

No, Donald Trump can not delay the 2020 US Presidential Election. At least, not on his own.

Unlike the UK, the election dates in the United States are much harder to change. The President has to be inaugurated (or begin their next term of office) on January 20, as per the Constitution.

The dates of federal elections are set by the Congress, so any changes 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 it seems unlikely that they would support delaying the election.

Theoretically, it is possible to delay the election for a few weeks, but it would be very difficult.


What has Trump said about delaying the election?

On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted;

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” 

The President has claimed on multiple occasions that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.


What is Mail-In voting and is it safe and secure?

Mail-In voting is essentially just another term for postal voting. Registered voters in some states will automatically receive a mail ballot before Election day. The voter can then cast their vote on the ballot and send it back before a certain time on the Election Day.

There have been isolated cases of fraud from Mail-In voting, but there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through the system. 

Voting fraud in the United States is very rare, including where people vote by mail. According to data from the Heritage Foundation, there have only been 1,008 proven instances of voter fraud in the United States in the last 20 years.

It’s not thought either that voting by mail has a significant impact on voter turnout or support for either of the two main political parties – something that has been researched by Stanford University.


Why does Trump want the election to be delayed?

Trump tweeted on Thursday, “2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA”. These claims are though unsubstantiated and there’s no known evidence to suggest there is any truth in the statement.

Some elections around the world, such as the UK local elections, have been delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and fears for public health. These elections were though due to take place much earlier in the year. The United States continues to suffer badly from the virus pandemic, but there are definitely ways that the election could go ahead in November.

Another reason Trump might want to delay the election is to buy time. Polls have shown the President to be trailing Joe Biden by double digits. Trump’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been criticised by many and so delaying the election to post-pandemic times might lead to some people looking slightly more favourably on the incumbent President.

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