January 22, 2021

Coronavirus: Could Donald Trump delay the presidential election?

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds much of the US economy to a halt, it is also playing havoc with the American democratic process during a national election year.

Primary contests have been delayed or disrupted, with in-person polling places closed and absentee balloting processes thrown into doubt. Politicians have engaged in contentious fights over the electoral process in legislatures and the courts.

In November voters are scheduled to head to the polls to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates. But what could Election Day look like – or if it will even be held on schedule – is very much the subject of debate.

Here are answers to some key questions.

Could President Trump postpone the election?

A total of 15 states have delayed their presidential primaries at this point, with most pushing them back until at least June. That presents the pressing question of whether the presidential election in November itself could be delayed.

Under a law dating back to 1845, the US presidential election is slated for the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years – 3 November in 2020. It would take an act of Congress – approved by majorities in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate – to change that.

The prospect of a bipartisan legislative consensus signing off on any delay is unlikely in the extreme.

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