The power to postpone a presidential election is in the hands of the legislative branch, Congress. While it is technically possible, it ensues so much trouble that perhaps it is not worth it. 2020 is due in November and President Trump is coaxing the postponement of the dates. His argument regarding the delay is, “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”
As said before, the Constitution does not prohibit postponement of election dates. Constitution just mentions the procedure of presidential election and who is in charge of it.
“The Congress may determine the Time of choosing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States,” Article I Section II of the Constitution.
The Electoral College has the power to elect the President while Congress can delay or postpone it.
1972– The first presidential election in the US took place in 1972, January. After that election, however, the Congress decided to give the states the choice to decide when they wanted to select their electors but provided the deadline to submit their votes as of December.
It was in this presidential election that all the states held their elections in early November, which stayed the rule for the next 50 years.
1845- In 1845, Congress passed the law which fixed a particular day for elections in every state. That day was the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. By the fourth Wednesday of December, the votes must be submitted to the congress.
How does the 20th Amendment affect the Congress’s power to shuffle the dates?
The 20th Amendment that was included in 1933 specifies that terms of President and Vice President will automatically come to an end on 20th January on the year following an election year.
This means that the Congress can pre-pone an election to a great length but postponing it is only possible till January of the following year.
In case due to some extreme adverse condition, the elections fail to take place, Speaker of the House of Representatives will take up the position of presiding President. In 2020, even if President Trump’s petition passes through and the elections are postponed, they cannot be delayed till January.
US uphold a proud history.
Despite calamities like Civil War, pandemics and natural calamities, Presidential election in the US has never been postponed.
1918- This year saw the deadly Spanish Flu all across the planet and still the midterm elections took place in the US.
1864- Even the Civil War could not force the elections to be postponed. It was this historical year that Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln won the elections on steep majority and claimed the presidential position.
“It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.”
2004- This year saw the dreadful 9/11 bombing and people were expecting the postponement of election which did not happen.
Therefore, no matter what President Trump might say to sway the decision, it seems like a farfetched call to most in the United States.