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VERIFY: No, the President can not delay the 2020 election amid coronavirus scare

There have been questions about whether the president can delay the election in November with coronavirus concerns. Our experts say that's false, but congress could.

WASHINGTON — Question:

Can the President delay the 2020 Elections, amid fears over the coronavirus? 


No. The president can not delay the election on his own. Congress could change the date of the election, but doing so would be unlikely, because the constitution mandates that the president's term ends just a couple months later. 


Gary Nordlinger, Adjunct Professor at The Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University

Paul M. Smith, Professor at the Georgetown Law School

20th Amendment of the United States

Presidential Election Day Act, Text


Amid the coronavirus pandemic, health experts are urging people to practice "social distancing," and avoid large gatherings. For this reason, many have started to question whether elections should be pushed back. 

David Munson, a viewer from Silver Spring, sent the team a video asking just that. 

"Can President Trump delay the 2020 election due to the coronavirus?" he asked. 

To find out, The Verify team reached out to Gary Nordlinger, a professor at The George Washington University, and Paul Smith from Georgetown Law. 

Both professors pointed the Verify team to the Presidential Election Day Act, which was passed in 1845. This law mandated that the election for president would be set on the "Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November." 

Our experts said that only Congress could change the date of elections by voting to amend this bill. But this act would be unlikely, because the Constitution makes a very strict end date for the president's term in office. 

The 20th Amendment mandates that a President's term ends at noon on Jan. 20, no matter what. If there has not been an election, then the presidency would drop to the Speaker of the House. 

"You can change all these dates," Nordlinger said. "But you can not change the 20th of January for the oath of office for the incoming president."

For this reason, our experts do not believe there would be enough time to delay the election. Smith said this was also a dangerous idea. 

"The election was held in the Civil War," he said. "When half the country was in insurrection... This is a scary time, but it's not that kind of scary time. We need to have democracy maintained." 

Our experts both agreed that a better solution was the expand voting by mail, which is already done on a wide-scale in states like Washington. 

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