Could Donald Trump Legally Postpone Election Day In The Wake Of Coronavirus?

Legally, Election Day falls on the first Tuesday of November by federal law. Donald Trump might make a play to change it if he feels his chances for reelection are seriously threatened (we can see it happening), but realistically he can’t really do anything without the approval of Congress. The bad news is this: Republican members of Congress have basically fallen in lock-step with the president, regardless of the laws at stake or the integrity of our government.

That means Election Day could theoretically be postponed because of emergency.

More likely, Donald Trump will contest the results of the election if he loses by a small margin. Because this is likely, there is a plausible scenario in which he and Joe Biden both claim victory and refuse to concede to the political opposition. In this case, a Republic-led Congress might very well side with Trump to “steal” the oval. 

It might seem like the ultimate decision-making power would be lain at the feet of the Supreme Court, but that isn’t exactly the case. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush after a heated battle between him and Al Gore in 2000, Al Gore took the high road and conceded to his opponent while Florida was still recounting votes. Perhaps tragically (for Democrats), one study concluded that the decision would have been reversed had the recount been allowed to proceed, making Gore the winner in 2000.

But, suffice it to say, no one can see either Trump or Biden conceding to the opposition even if Trump clearly loses the electoral vote (he will almost certainly lose the popular vote again).

Legally, this places the country in a tricky position during which we might not have a president. Coupled with the coronavirus, recent unrest, and the possibility of widespread discontent with any election result later this year, and it’s anyone’s guess what might happen — or what the law might do about it.