President Donald Trump suggested in a recent tweet that the US Presidential Election be delayed due to the risks of fraud posed by mail-in voting. Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned his suggestion, assuring voters that Election Day will remain November 3, 2020. While Trump’s idea is rooted in a concern over mail-in ballots, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the election has also been a worry.
Previously, in April, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies had asked Americans in a national poll whether they would support a delayed election due to the coronavirus crisis. We found that about half (49%) of respondents were against moving the election to next year under any circumstances.
However, a third (33%) would support a delayed election under certain circumstances. While this question identified the coronavirus crisis as the impetus for such a delay, it is not at all clear whether potential voter-fraud via mailed votes constitutes a certain circumstance under which this group of respondents would have supported a postponement.
This figure breaks down further along partisan lines. Likely Trump voters are almost evenly divided, with 44% supporting a delayed election against 41% which do not. In contrast, a strong majority (62%) of likely Biden voters did not support postponing the election, with a quarter disagreeing. Since President Trump has publicly floated moving the election, it is possible that even more of his supporters would agree today.
Trump has cited voter-fraud due to mail-in ballots as the issue at stake. In our latest swing state polling, we found that likely Biden voters are significantly more likely to vote by mail than likely Trump voters. It is possible, however, that President Trump was using an extreme point merely to draw attention to a genuine logistical problem.
Since the election date was fixed in 1845, changing the date of the election would require a law being passed by both houses of Congress. Postponing the election further, to 2021, would require a constitutional amendment. As both parties do not support delaying the election, it is quite unlikely that Trump will actually be able to move the election date.
Nevertheless, while the Presidential Election is unlikely to be postponed, other recent and upcoming elections have indeed been delayed. Sixteen US States and two territories postponed their primary elections earlier this year. In London, the Mayoral Election was delayed for a year from May 7, 2020 to May 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, North Macedonia held an election earlier this month.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam postponed parliamentary elections for a year, originally scheduled for this September. While she cited concerns over coronavirus, some see it as a politically motivated move. Twelve pro-democracy candidates have been disqualified from the election, including current lawmakers, for supporting Hong Kong’s self-determination and speaking against China’s new security law, among other reasons.
In total, over 68 countries or regions across the world have postponed elections throughout the pandemic.