- President Donald Trump appeared to float the idea of delaying the election on Thursday and made false claims about mail-in voting, which numerous states have expanded in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The president does not have the power to move the general election, an authority given solely to Congress under the Constitution.
- Separately, the Constitution also states that the four-year term of a president must end on Jan. 20.
- While the White House later walked back the president’s remarks, the suggestion still drew bipartisan backlash from members of Congress.
- Trump has repeatedly made false claims about mail-in voting and claimed it is the biggest risk to his re-election, a fact that many say is an attempt to undermine the outcome of the election.
Trump Floats Delaying Election
President Donald Trump stirred up significant outcry on Thursday after suggesting in a tweet that the 2020 general election be delayed.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” he wrote. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The president has zero legal authority to change the date of the general election. Under the Constitution, Congress is given the power to set the date for the general, and states are given the power to choose when their primaries are. There is nothing that gives the president that ability.
Even if Congress did want to delay the election, it would be an incredibly complicated and tough legal process. The date of the general election was set by a federal law in 1895, which says it must be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
In order to change that, both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-held House would have to pass legislation, Trump would have to sign off, and that would still be subject to legal challenges in court.
But even if that all happened, the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution mandates that the four-year term of a president and vice president end at noon on Jan. 20, and because that date is set in the Constitution, any change to that would require a Constitutional amendment.
That is arguably the most important thing to keep in mind here. Even if the election was delayed, the Constitution, as is, still says it has to happen before Jan. 20. If it does not happen before then, Trump cannot simply continue to be the president after his term ends Jan. 20 without changing the Constitution. The same applies for Vice President Mike Pence.
If, for whatever reason, there was not an election or a Constitutional amendment changing the term date, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) would become the president on Jan. 20.
Though, notably, if there is not a presidential election, there would also most likely not be a congressional election, meaning Pelosi’s term would end Jan. 3 and the Senate Pro Tempore, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) would take over the presidency.
The remarks drew immediate bipartisan ire and prompted rebukes from several key Republican members.
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election, and we should go forward,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.)
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during an interview later on Thursday.
The White House denied that Trump wants to change the election from November 3rd.
While Trump’s exact intentions with floating the idea of moving the election remain unclear, many accused the president of trying to sow discord and set up a scenario where if he loses the election, he and his supporters could refuse or challenge the results.
Over the last few months, Trump has launched numerous attacks on the mail-in ballot expansions many states have undertaken in response to the coronavirus pandemic, repeatedly claiming that voting-by-mail will rig the election and lead to inaccuracies and fraud.
Experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle allege that those attacks, almost all of which are based on falsities, are continued efforts by Trump to undermine the election results.
Instances of voter fraud are very rare in general. Specifically, the five states that already conduct voting almost entirely by mail have reported very little fraud.
While experts do say that it is true that without the proper security measures, mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud, they also note that one of the most significant examples of absentee ballot fraud in decades was actually designed to help a Republican.
That instance took place during the 2018 race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, when a Republican operative was charged with election fraud after collecting absentee ballots for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. State election officials mandated that the election be held again.
However, experts also use that as an example to show that fraud that is big enough to change an election outcome will probably be detected.
But despite the fact that there is hard historical and scientific evidence to back all of that up, Trump has continually pushed these false claims, and in recent weeks, he has only ramped up his efforts and rhetoric.
During an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace earlier this month, Trump refused to say if he would accept the results of the 2020 election.
“It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election,” he said. “I have to see. I’m not just going to say yes, I’m not going to say no.”
According to a tally by The Washington Post, since late March, Trump has gone after mail-in voting nearly 70 times in interviews, remarks, and tweets, including at least 17 times this month alone.
Trump has also recently said that mail-in voting is his biggest risk for his re-election, and claimed that it will hurt Republicans more, though studies have found that mail-in voting does not favor one party either way.
States Expanding Mail-In Ballots
On the other side, Democrats have accused Trump and other Republicans who have pushed to limit mail-in voting during the pandemic of undermining democracy by making people choose between exercising their right to vote and endangering their health.
Many also accused them of engaging in voter suppression, arguing that it’s not mail-in voting that will hurt the Republicans, but rather, voter turn out.
According to data from the National Vote at Home Institute, states that changed their presidential primaries to largely mail-in voting this year saw much bigger voter turnout than states that mostly held in-person contests. In fact, seven of the nine states that saw the lowest turnout held their elections primarily in person.
For example, Montana, which had the highest percentage of voter turnout in the nation with 63%, sent ballots to all registered voters and encouraged them to vote by mail. In Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, 1.5 million people voted by mail in the primary, nearly 18 times the amount of people who voted by mail in the state in 2016.
If states with mail-in voting have higher turnout, that has huge implications for the general election. While some states have been inflexible, the vast majority of others have either relaxed their rules for absentee and mail-in voting or already had those rules in place.
According to The Post, currently, over 180 million eligible voters will be able to vote by mail in the election. Of those eligible voters, 24 million live in states that have either switched to allow no-excuse absentee voting or will now allow fear of the coronavirus as a reason to vote absentee.
Meanwhile, only eight states are keeping in-person voting as the only option unless the voter can give an approved reason other than fear of the coronavirus.
Those massive expansions, which have timed out perfectly with Trump’s increased attacks, seem to indicate that Trump views increased voter turn-out as a threat. That could not come at a worse time for the embattled leader.
Current polls are increasingly showing him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, including in some key battleground states. Trump’s unusual tweet Thursday also came just minutes after the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. GDP fell 9.5 percent last quarter, the largest quarterly drop on record.
But for now, it seems like the election will stay put. And with just 95 days to go, the clock is ticking.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (The New York Times)
House Passes Landmark Elections Bill To Expand Voting Rights
- House Democrats passed the For the People Act on Wednesday, a broad voting rights bill that aims to enhance voting rights.
- Among other measures, the legislation would mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and impose new disclosure requirements for campaign donations and political advertising.
- Democrats say the act is necessary to ensure American’s right to vote, especially as state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access and consolidate GOP power.
- Republicans have argued that states, not the federal government, should decide how elections are run and claimed the new bill would lead to fraud that helps liberal candidates.
House Approves For the People Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that aims to significantly expand federal voting rights all over the country.
The bill, called the For the People Act, was proposed by Democrats and passed 220 to 210 almost entirely along party lines. According to reports, if signed into law, it would be the most comprehensive enhancement of federal protections since the 1960s.
The bill contains a wide variety of provisions, but the most significant fall into two broader categories: creating uniform standards for voting and increasing financial transparency.
Regarding the voting rights standards, among other things, the bill would:
- Weaken restrictive state voter ID laws.
- Mandate that state governments use existing records to automatically register voters.
- Guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for all federal elections.
- Make it harder to purge voter rolls.
- Restore voting rights to former felons.
- End partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts.
As for what the bill aims to do regarding expanding transparency, it would:
- Impose new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations used to finance campaigns.
- Create a public financing option for congressional campaigns.
- Require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
- Require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information.
Arguments For And Against
Democrats have argued that this legislation is essential to protecting and ensuring the right to vote.
The task, they say, is especially important now because Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access as a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss and efforts to undermine the election. Many Republicans have used Trump’s false claims about voter fraud to promote their legislation.
Democrats have said these bills are a very transparent attempt by Republicans to consolidate their power because they know they benefit from lower voter turnout, and thus their strategy to win more races is just simply to make voting harder. As a result, Democrats have said the For the People Act is key to combatting these bills
“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Wednesday. “We must win this race, this fight.”
Republicans, for their part, have argued that states, not the federal government, should make changes to how elections are run, and that the legislation would lead to fraud that benefits Democrats.
“House Democrats do not get to take their razor-thin majority — which voters just shrunk — and use it to steamroll states and localities to try and prevent themselves from losing even more seats next time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to the bill’s passage.
However, many have disputed that claim by noting that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that helped Democrats in the last election. By contrast, there are years of evidence that Republicans do benefit from making it harder for people to vote and gerrymandering districts, a fact that McConnell himself seemed to acknowledge by implying that Democrats win more when voting rights are expanded.
Despite Republican objections, recent polls have found that most Americans support having more voter protections. According to a January survey by Data for Progress, 67% of Americans back the For the People Act, including a majority of Republicans.
Still, the legislation is all but doomed in the Senate, which struck down an almost identical version passed by the House in 2019. While Democrats technically have a majority now, the current 50-50 split will require a minimum of 10 Republicans to join forces with all 50 Democrats to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Texas Governor Will Reopen State “100%” and End Mask Mandate Against Expert Advice
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he was opening the state “100%” and ending the mask mandate starting March 10, against health guidance from federal officials.
- Abbott justified his decision by noting that nearly 6 million Texans have been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down in the state.
- Experts, however, pointed out that less than 2 million of the state’s 29 million residents are fully inoculated, and the CDC currently ranks Texas 48th for vaccination rates out of all 50 states.
- On Tuesday alone, governors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan as well as local leaders in Chicago and San Francisco also announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Abbott Announces Major COVID Policy Changes
Starting March 10, Texas will no longer have a state-wide mask mandate or any coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday.
The move represents the most expansive reopening of any state and makes Texas the largest state to lift its public masking requirement. However, it also goes entirely against the recommendation of the nation’s top experts.
During a press conference Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned leaders against rolling back restrictions. She cited the fact that the recent nation-wide decline in cases has been stalling and that there has been community spread of the new variants — three of which have been found in Texas, saying:
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Conditions in Texas
While cases have been declining in Texas, like most of the country, there is still a lot of data that makes Abbott’s decision especially concerning.
According to The New York Times tracker, Texas still ranks within the top ten states with the highest weekly cases per capita, reporting a weekly average of just over 7,200. Texas also has more hot-spot counties than any other state, according to Business Insider’s analysis of the Times data, which found that 10 counties have reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents on average over the last week.
Notably, that number could be skewed because of the massive drop in the testing due to a recent storm that left millions without power and clean water. In fact, experts have warned that Texas could see more COVID cases in the fallout of the storm because people were forced to shelter together.
Abbott, however, did not focus on any of that in his announcement. Instead, he cited other metrics, noting that nearly 5.7 Texans have been vaccinated. He also pointed to declines in hospitalizations.
But both of these justifications are misleading. While it is true that Texas has vaccinated close to 6 million people, according to the CDC, less than 2 million out of 29 million state residents have received both doses needed to be considered fully inoculated.
Beyond that, the CDC’s latest vaccination report ranks Texas 48th in vaccination rates out of all 50 states. Part of that is tied to the lag the state faced because of the storm, but experts still say this just proves that the state needs to be focus on catching up and vaccinating more people instead of rolling back restrictions.
To that point, public health officials have also pushed back against Abbott’s use of declining hospitalization rates as a rationale for his reopening plans. They warned that current hospitalization declines are already slowing and could reverse, and that will only get worse with reopenings.
Other States Reopen
Texas, however, is not the only state that has rolled back restrictions lately, or even just in the past 24 hours.
On Tuesday alone, the governors of Louisiana and Michigan as well as the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco all announced that they would be easing some restrictions on businesses and/or the capacity at which they operate.
Right after Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made a nearly identical one with an even shorter timeline. In a tweet, he said that starting Wednesday, he would lift all county mask mandates and allow businesses to “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”
The recent easing of restrictions is part of a broader trend — and not just in states that have Republican governors or large conservative populations.
While California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed Abbott’s move as “absolutely reckless,” he has also been widely condemned by leaders in his state for recently rolling back numerous restrictions.
Over the last few weeks, the Democratic governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York have all also lifted or otherwise modified regulations to make them less restrictive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Dallas Morning News) (Business Insider)
Georgia House Passes Sweeping Bill To Restrict Voting Access
- The Georgia House approved an election bill Monday that would impose new restrictions on absentee voting and provisional ballots, cut weekend early voting hours, and limit physical access to voting options, among other measures.
- Republicans proposed the bill after losing the Presidential and Senate races, arguing that it is necessary to restore confidence in the state’s elections and prevent fraud.
- Democrats have condemned the proposed law, noting that Republicans created the distrust by spreading former President Trump’s false claims about election fraud even when top GOP officials in the state said there was no evidence. They also accused them of trying to suppress voters, particularly Black residents.
Georgia House Approves Election Bill
Republicans in the Georgia House passed a sweeping bill Monday that would significantly roll back voting access in the state.
The bill, which was proposed by Republicans who want to impose new restrictions after losing the election, was passed 97-72 along party lines. If signed into law, among other things, the legislation would:
- Require a photo ID for absentee voting.
- Cut the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot.
- Restrict ballot drop box locations to inside early voting locations.
- Shorten Georgia’s runoff election period.
- Impose more strict regulations on provisional ballots.
- Prevent the governments from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters.
- Ban nonprofit organizations from helping fund elections.
- Almost entirely cut early voting busses that are key to transport people to the polls.
- Prohibit food and drinks from being distributed to voters waiting in long lines.
- Limit early voting hours on weekends.
The last provision is one of the most controversial because it would include limiting the get-out-the-vote campaign known as “souls to the polls,” which is widely used by Black churches. That initiative has been credited with mobilizing Black voters all over the country since the Jim Crow era. The proposed law would limit events to just one Sunday during the early voting period, which would also be cut short.
Arguments For And Against The Bill
The Republicans who have pushed for the bill argue that it is necessary to restore public confidence in Georgia’s elections and help prevent fraud.
But Democrats, voting rights organizations, and protestors who have gathered in front of the capitol to demonstrate against the bill have pointed out that it was Republicans who hurt public trust in the state’s elections by repeating former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud.
Meanwhile, numerous top Republican officials — including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger — have said time and time again that there was no evidence of fraud in the 2020 elections.
Though notably, many Republican state legislators who supported the former president’s false that massive fraud had occurred in their states never contested the results of their own elections, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Democrats have also said that the bill is just the Republican’s latest, transparent attempt to drive down turnout and suppress voters — particularly Black voters who helped Democrat’s wins in the state and take the Senate — rather than actually increase election security.
As far as what happens next, the bill will head to the state Senate, which is also Republican-controlled, and already considering its own elections bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting, among other things.
From there, it will go to Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who will likely sympathetic to the cause.
Notably, this legislation the only election bill like this being proposed in state capitols around the country or even in Georgia.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators in 43 states are considering more than 250 bills that would create impediments to voting. Dozens of those proposals exist in Georgia alone.