What Happens If the 2020 US Election Gets Delayed?

President Donald Trump on Wednesday managed to unite both Democrats and Republicans when he sparked a new round of controversy after suggesting that the 2020 presidential election be delayed. Although such a delay would be unprecedented and has likely no chance of actually occurring, what exactly would happen if the November election were delayed?

Although some have suggested that Trump made the suggestion, citing his unfounded belief that mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud, because he is trailing behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump would not remain in office if the election were postponed. The United States Constitution mandates that a presidential term ends on Jan. 20. As WUSA 9 points out, this would mean that both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would be out of office, at least until another election occurred.

In that scenario, the next in line to the Oval Office would be the Speaker of the House, currently Nancy Pelosi. Shortly after Trump had shared his tweet, "President Pelosi" began trending on Twitter as some celebrated the possibility as Pelosi stepping into command. However, given the fact that Pelosi's term ends on Jan. 3, as she is currently up for re-election, she would also be out of the office and unable to step into the role of president due to the constitutional mandate. In her place, the line of succession would fall upon President Pro Tempore of the Senate, which is currently Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

As WUSA 9 notes, not even this would be a guarantee, however. On the off chance that the election would be delayed, only 65 senators would remain in office, the majority of whom would be Democrats. It would be possible that those senators would choose to elect a new President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

Despite the suggestion of a delay, it is extremely unlikely that the November election will be postponed, something that has never before happened in the nation's history, even in times of war. Election day is "enshrined in federal law," and moving the date would take an act of Congress. As Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states, and as Pelosi shared on Twitter, "The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States."


Trump's suggestion of a delay has been met with almost unanimous pushback, with numerous members of the GOP speaking out against Trump. According to CNBC, Rep. Liz Cheney, who leads the House Republican Conference, said, "The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming."