Amy Coney Barrett Will Not Say if the Constitution Permits Donald Trump to Postpone or Cancel the Election
Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett would not say whether federal law permits President Donald Trump to unilaterally postpone or cancel the general election in November.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Barrett the following:
On July 30, 2020, President Trump made claims of voter fraud and suggested he wanted to delay the upcoming election. Does the Constitution give the president of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances?
The appellate court judge gave an ominous non-answer:
If that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigants and read briefs and consult with my law clerks and talk to my colleagues and go through the opinion writing process. If I give off the cuff answers, then I would be basically a legal pundit, and I don’t think we want judges to be legal pundits. I think we want judges to approach cases thoughtfully and with an open mind.
When asked if the Constitution gives the president the authority to delay an election, Judge Amy Coney Barrett says, "If I give off the cuff answers, then I would be basically a legal pundit and I don't think we want judges to be legal pundits." https://t.co/Cf9zQaZdGx pic.twitter.com/9RcTh9Dy75
— ABC News (@ABC) October 13, 2020
Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the Constitution says that the power to schedule elections is shared by Congress and individual states. Further, it makes no mention of the chief executive having any involvement in that process:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
Common Cause Director of Voting and Elections Sylvia Albert recently discussed this issue with The Washington Post. She noted that there has never been any legislation granting the president any authority over how or when elections in the United States are conducted:
No laws passed by Congress have delegated these powers to the president, even in an emergency, so Congress is the only entity that has the power to change the date of the election.
The short answer is “no.”