Why Donald Trump can't delay the US election

Donald Trump has sparked a political firestorm after suggesting the US election should be delayed.

Americans are set to go to the polls on November 3, but in a tweet on Thursday (local time) Trump floated the idea of postponing the highly anticipated event.

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" he wrote.

The question many are asking now is: can he actually do such a thing?

In short, the answer is no.

"If you look at the constitution yourself the President has no say whatsoever in when, where or how an election is called," US correspondent Kate Fisher told The Am Show on Friday.

"That power lies solely with Congress. And Congress at the moment, the lower house, is in the control of the Democrats - and of course they will not want to postpone this election."

Joshua Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky and an election law expert, told Reuters even if Trump declared an emergency due to COVID-19 he still wouldn't be able to postpone the day.

"President Trump has absolutely no legal authority to delay the election," Douglas said.

According to Article II of the US constitution, it is up to Congress to choose the timing of the election. 

In 1845 a law was passed setting the first Monday in November as that date. In order to change the day it would require approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

And with the Democrats controlling Congress that approval is highly unlikely. 

In fact, even Trump's fellow Republicans don't seem to support him. 

In an interview with WKNY Senator Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea.

"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 November 3," he said.

Senator Marco Rubio also said it wasn't going to happen.

"We're going to have an election, it's going to be legitimate, it's going to be credible, it's going to be the same as it's always been," he told reporters.

Even if Congress did decide to delay the election, according to the constitution's 20th Amendment Trump's term as President would still come to an end on January 20, 2021.

In order for that date to be changed it would need to be approved by a supermajority of two-thirds of both chambers, and also be ratified by at least 38 states.

If there were no winner of the presidential election by January 20, the constitution says the Speaker of House - currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi - would become acting President until a successor was confirmed.

What can Trump do? 

Although Trump can't change the date, he can cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

"Donald Trump has no power to postpone an election. He does have the power though to kind of instil disquiet and uncertainty and make his voting base and people who read and believe his tweets concerned about potentially there being fraud in this election," Fisher told The AM Show.

And Trump is not the only one who seems to be using this technique.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz told reporters that while he didn't agree that the election should be delayed, he said, "I think election fraud is a serious problem", the New York Times reported.

Chris Stewart, a Republican congressman from Utah, also said he agreed with Trump's view that postal voting could be open to fraud.

"Can you ensure the accuracy of mail-in voting? Now in some states you can. In my state in Utah, for example, we've been doing it for quite a while, but we're a small state with a relatively small population. It's harder to do on a national scale," he told the BBC.

It's not the first time Trump has questioned the credibility of US elections. Even after winning in 2016 he cast doubt on the results, saying his opponent Hilary Clinton only won the popular vote because "millions of millions" of votes were cast fraudulently, a claim never substantiated by evidence.