Experts are encouraging states to move towards vote-by-mail
Washington: The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has already majorly disrupted the ongoing 2020 election, leaving campaigns and election officials scrambling at the last minute to adapt.
As of Monday, five states and territories have postponed their upcoming Democratic presidential primaries.
Early on Tuesday morning, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the state’s Department of Health shutting down polling places as part of a public health emergency over coronavirus in the state, allowing in-person voting in the primary to be postponed.
Amid the unprecedented national turmoil, some Trump critics wondered whether the president would attempt to seize on the crisis and postpone or altogether cancel the November 2020 election, reports Business Insider.
Fox News analyst Juan Williams, for example, wondered in a recent op-ed in The Hill, “Given the depth of the political hole he has dug eight months before the presidential election, does anyone really think the president would hesitate to use the coronavirus as justification for postponing or canceling the next presidential election?”
Kurt Eichenwald, a New York Times bestselling author, called on Sen. Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race so that states could cancel their presidential primaries, suggesting that “Trump’s going to use this precedent to cancel [the general] election.”
Trump cannot, however, unilaterally decide to cancel or postpone the November 3 general election by an executive authority, under the parameters of a national emergency or disaster declaration, or even if he declared martial law.
Experts including Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias and Josh Douglas, a professor of voting and election law at the University of Kentucky Law School, explained on Twitter that only an act of Congress can vote to alter the current federal statute to change the date that states appoint their electors.
Douglas explained to Insider that Congress passed the current law standardizing the date of the nationwide presidential election to be the Tuesday after the first Monday in November back in 1845, and hasn’t changed the day of the election since.
And even in the highly unlikely, far-fetched scenario in which the 2020 presidential election didn’t happen at all, it wouldn’t automatically extend Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s tenures.
The president and vice president’s terms would still expire at noon on January 20, 2021, meaning control of the presidency would go down the line of succession to the Speaker of the House (if House elections occurred), and then to the president Pro Tempore of the US Senate.
So far, it’s unclear how long the coronavirus outbreak will last, and to what extent it will disrupt voting in November’s general election.
Douglas and other experts are advocating not only for states to postpone upcoming presidential primary elections if possible, but for individual states to start acting now to expand early voting and vote-by-mail, and implement no-excuse absentee voting, which currently exists in 34 states and Washington DC, across the board in time for November.