The 2020 fall general election will occur Nov. 3, regardless of a tweet by President Donald Trump on Thursday, suggesting it should be delayed.
In his tweet, Trump expressed concerns that mail-in voting will lead to an “inaccurate and fraudulent outcome. He wrote “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”
Geoff Peterson, a UW-EC political science professor, said the chance of Election Day being removed isn’t realistic. The general election has been fixed on the first Tuesday, after the first Monday in November, since 1845.
“It is theoretically possible, but it takes an act of Congress to do so,” Peterson said.
That would mean not only a Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approving delaying the election, but also the Republican-controlled Senate.
“As a practical matter, it is almost impossible,” Peterson said. “This is one of the things where the law is clear-cut. He cannot unilaterally change the election date.”
The only way Peterson sees Congress agreeing to an election day is if “the COVID matter gets 20 times worse.”
“It’s political rhetoric at this time,” Peterson said. “Being as we had normal elections in the 1918 Spanish flu, World War I and World War II, it would be so outside the norm, I can’t imagine it is possible.”
Peterson said that Trump’s tweet was likely a combination of fears of the virus, fears that absentee voting leads to fraud, and polling that indicates Trump could lose this fall.
“Certainly, the polling numbers look bad for him at this moment,” Peterson said. “I think it is more tied to hoping the economy improves in a couple of months.”
However, postponing to the spring isn’t viable, he added, saying “there is no way that is going to fly.”
UW-Stout political science professor Rich Postlewaite agreed that Trump’s tweet makes for an interesting discussion but ultimately won’t go anywhere.
“He’s famous for throwing out trial balloons and seeing what sticks,” Postlewaite said. “It’s Trump being Trump.”
Like Peterson, Postlewaite said the only way he could even imagine the election being delayed is if COVID-19 is significantly worse in three months. However, Postlewaite said with so many other voting options in place, delaying Election Day isn’t realistic.
“The difference is mail-in, absentee and online voting,” Postlewaite said.
Postlewaite is intrigued to see if the tweet leads to any serious discussion on the topic from other elected officials.
“We’ll see pushback from the Democrats, for sure. It will be interesting to see what Republicans have to say about it nationally,” Postlewaite said.
In recent months, Trump has repeated claimed that mail-in voting will lead to fraud and “rigged” elections.
Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, predicted in April that Trump would try to “kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”