Does the Constitution allow for a delayed presidential election?

President Trump and three Republican senators have tested positive for Covid-19 in a week; in light of this, Trump has suggested delaying the election – is that a possibility?

The president does not have the authority to move the date of a federal election.

Article II of the Constitution empowers Congress to choose the timing of the general election. An 1845 federal law fixed the date as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. To change that date would require legislation enacted by Congress (Republican-led Senate AND House of Representatives controlled by Democrats), signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts. 



Even if all of that happened, there would not be much flexibility in choosing an alternate election date: The Constitution mandates that the new Congress must be sworn in on Jan. 3, and that the new president’s term must begin on Jan. 20. Those dates cannot be changed just by the passage of normal legislation.


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