- 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)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.