Trump can’t cancel the election – but he will try to stop people voting | Arwa Mahdawi

Trump can't cancel the election – but he will try to stop people voting | Arwa Mahdawi thumbnail

Only by making participation more flexible can we ensure a fair contest in November – which is why Republicans are blocking such moves

‘Let’s be clear,” Hillary Clinton tweeted this month. “Trump does not have the power to cancel or postpone the November election.” That tweet did not come out of nowhere. Covid-19 has already disrupted the Democratic primaries, with 16 states postponing their primary elections because of public health concerns. There has been some worried speculation in recent weeks that Donald Trump may exploit the coronavirus crisis to indefinitely delay the US presidential election.

While you imagine Trump would love to unilaterally crown himself king of the US, he doesn’t have the power to postpone an election, as Clinton noted. Since 1845, federal law has mandated that presidential elections be held on “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November”. Only Congress can change that – and it would be an arduous process, even before you factor in the House of Representatives being controlled by Democrats. Even if Congress did postpone the election, there would still be an expiry date on Trump’s term. The 20th amendment to the constitution dictates that if an election does not happen, or Trump refuses to step down, his presidency will automatically end on 20 January 2021. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, would then become acting president.

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