Article II: What is it, and what does it mean for the upcoming election?

President tested positive on Thursday night

Matt Mathers
Saturday 03 October 2020 09:38
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Trump says end of pandemic 'in sight' before contracting virus

The news of president Donald Trump's positive Covid-19 test has caused shockwaves in Capitol Hill and indeed throughout the world.

Just over a month out from election day, the president will be forced to quarantine for at least 10 days, meaning he can't get out on the campaign trail.

Amid the pandemic, Mr Trump has repeatedly called for the November poll to be postponed to allow voters to cast their ballots safely.

So, does Thursday night's bombshell announcement make the prospect of a delayed election more likely?  

Does president Donald Trump have the power to delay the election?

Article II of the US constitution sets out that only Congress can decide to delay or postpone an election.

However, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) looked at ways of delegating power to the president in the event of similar disaster.

The CRS report concluded that Congress could hand over power to the commander-in-chief to postpone the election - but only according to its will.

Is it possible for Congress to delay an election?

Congress would need to pass federal legislation if it wanted to postpone an election.  

That would mean both the House of Representatives and Senate agreeing on a law. And as the coronavirus relief package has shown, getting the two houses to agree can be a long and protracted process.

Has the US ever delayed an election before?

In terms of presidential elections, the answer is no.

However, there have been a few occasions where state-level contests have been halted.

New York state in 2001 delayed its primary election due to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

In 1992, officials in Florida postponed the Dade County primary due to Hurricane Andrew.

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