NC political scientist explains how an election could be delayed, why Trump can’t do it

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – President Donald Trump’s Thursday morning tweet might have raised some eyebrows, but the idea of changing the date of the November general election is not in his hands.

“The legality is he can’t do that. He can certainly tweet it, and he can certainly threaten to do it, but the president has essentially no control over how we run elections,” said Chris Cooper, who is a political scientist at Western Carolina University.

Trump asserted on Twitter that mail-in voting would lead to the “most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.” He then posed the question: “Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”

The executive branch has no legal say in changing the election. It would require Congress to change federal law. Then, the 20th Amendment of the Constitution comes into play.

“Let’s just play this out some. If Congress somehow says, ‘Hey, we’re going to delay the election somehow,’ the Constitution still lays out when the president needs to be done with his term in office,” Cooper said. “So, it’s not like there’s some broad grain of power where Congress can just change the election indefinitely. It just doesn’t work that way.”

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Students for Trump conference at Dream City Church, Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Cooper believes the president’s tweet is getting the other focus he wants.

“What he’s done, of course, is to draw attention to mail-in voting again; what he calls universal mail-in voting, which he tries to differentiate from absentee voting. So, he’s bringing attention to a policy issue he thinks works for him,” Cooper said.

Absentee and mail-in ballots are considered one and the same by most states and require the same verification process. In it’s own published research, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, shows few instances of absentee voter fraud in battleground states. Even if it was the case, the executive branch can’t control the day of the election.

“There’s been a group of lawyers and political scientists who have gotten together to look at these questions and say, ‘Hey, let’s take these threats or these claims seriously, and let’s look at what would happen.’ And what they come back with again is the conclusion he cannot do this,” Cooper said.

Republican leaders have also weighed in. They said the election won’t or can’t be changed. Those dismissing the idea include Sen. Lindsay Graham, Sen. Ted Cruz, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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