In a tweet, President Trump mused about whether the November general election should be delayed. The election could indeed be delayed, but It is not within the executive branch’s authority to change the dates of federal elections.
Art. II, Sec. 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to “determine the time of choosing electors, and the Day on which they shall give their votes, which day shall be the same throughout the United States.” The electors are chosen by the voters on Election Day. When voters select a presidential nominee, they are actually voting for that nominee’s slate of electors. Federal law sets Election Day as the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November. This date could be changed by an act of Congress.
Once chosen, the electors meet in their respective state capitols on the same day – currently the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December – to cast their votes. Those votes are then counted by Congress after it convenes in January, and, at that point, a president and vice president are elected.
States may change the manner in which electors are chosen. Currently, all but two states award all of their respective electors to the presidential nominee who receives the most votes statewide. Maine and Nebraska award electors based statewide and congressional district votes. States do not have the power to change the date electors are elected by voters.
Only Congress has the power to change the date of the general election or the date the Electoral College votes, but it can’t change the dates the president and vice president’s terms end.
The Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes that “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th of January” every four years following the general election at which electors are chosen. The amendment’s wording makes it clear that the relevant 20th of January occurs in specific years, even though the amendment itself does not enumerate them. Thus, the date the president’s current term ends cannot be changed except by amending the U.S. Constitution.
That same amendment gives Congress the power to “provide for the case wherein neither a President-elect nor a Vice President-elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President.” Congress did so in 1947 when it passed the Presidential Succession Act. The next office in line behind the president and vice president is the Speaker of the House, which at present is U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Terms of members of Congress are also set by the Twentieth Amendment, and the current Congress ends at noon on January 3.
So, even if the general election were delayed by an act of Congress, President Trump’s current term still ends at noon on January 20, 2021, and the new Congress begins at noon on January 3.
LTGOV: Speaking to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said he would seek re-election in 2022 for what will be “my last term.”
CD22 open (Toss Up): A new poll conducted (PDF) for the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund shows Fort Bend Co. Sheriff Troy Nehls (R) leading Democratic challenger Sri Kulkarni, 44%-32%, with 17% undecided. Among indepedents, Nehls leads, 42%-23%. Nehls’s favorability rating is 35/17, and Kulkarni is rated at 14/6. The poll of 400 registered voters was in the field July 19-22 and has a stated margin of error of ±4.9%.
Kulkarni lost the 2018 general election to U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), 51%-46%, in a district that has moved from 5.5 percentage points redder than the state in 2012 to 0.7% bluer than the state in 2018. We have no doubt that Nehls will receive sufficient resources to run a battleground campaign – either through direct campaign contributions or via independent expenditures – he enters the general election sprint down nearly $1.2M in cash on hand to Kulkarni.
Round Rock: In a letter, Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton told Mayor Craig Morgan and council members that the city “lacks authority to postpone its election” to May 2021. Morgan and several council members’ terms expired in May of this year, and the council postponed that election to November after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) suspended provisions of the Election Code to enable postponement. Earlier this month, the council voted, 6-1, to postpone the election further. As far as we can tell, no other local government has attempted to move its November elections to May or another date.
©2020 Texas Election Source LLC