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Coronavirus can't delay presidential elections as Americans have voted 'even during World War', claim experts

As the primaries are temporarily halted, there are speculations whether the November election will meet the same fate
UPDATED MAR 27, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The 2020 United States presidential election is being gravely impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country. The virus has already wreaked havoc on the state primaries with at least ten states across the nation postponing their primary elections amid rising concerns of viral transmission, while others have changed their voting procedure.

As the quest to elect an ultimate Democratic Party nominee has been temporarily halted, there are speculations as to whether the eventual November 2020 presidential election will meet the same fate. The answer is likely not.

"There will be a presidential election on November 3, 2020," Michael A Genovese, President,  Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "We've held elections during World Wars and Civil War. This virus, as devastating as it has been, will not stop the 2020 election."

Dr Stephen J Farnsworth, Professor of Political Science, University of Mary Washington also resonated with the belief, stating: "There is very close to a zero percent chance that the November US presidential election will be delayed."

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a break at the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina (Getty Images)

According to WHO, coronavirus cases in the United States are 68,334. At least 991 people have died from the virus across the nation.

With rising confusion about the future of the 2020 poll, some have also questioned whether President Donald Trump and his administration have the power to postpone the national poll at their will citing the coronavirus crisis, which has already pushed the country to the brink of recession.

"What most people do not know is that there is not 'a' single election system, but 50+ different elections for president. The states and territories by law, conduct elections. That means that there are often 50+ different sets of rules," Genovese added. "Confusing, yes. But it is the system set up by the Constitution. All elections are codified by state law, and therefore the federal government has limited powers over the election."

Gregg R Murray, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science at Augusta University said that a delay in the national poll this year is not entirely inconceivable. However, it could only occur if an action was taking by the US Congress in exceptional circumstances. The expert stated that there would be immense resistance to postponing the presidential elections because of the "fundamental role that elections play in our system of government and democracy."

Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 25, 2020 in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

"At this point, ten states have postponed their primary elections due to coronavirus concerns, so it’s not inconceivable to think the presidential election in November could be postponed, too," Murray said. "But I don’t think that’s highly likely. It would take action by the US Congress to change the November 3 date." The expert added that although an election delay was improbable, the 2020 poll might see a reduced voter turnout if the coronavirus health care in not settled by November.

When asked if, in case of the postponement of the presidential elections Trump's term will be extended, Genovese suggested that in such a case it is likely for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be the commander-in-chief.

"IT'S THE LAW!  We will have an election because it is clearly established in law," he said. "Trump and Pence would be out of office, the law clearly says that they may serve only four years unless reelected. Thus, Nancy Pelosi would become president if there is a postponement of the election. Does anyone think the Republicans would allow that?" he said suggesting that the Republican-majority Senate would not favor postponement in such a case.

Even if the elections are not postponed, the coronavirus crisis in the country will change the way residents vote for the presidential poll this year, with many states moving to make use of mail-in-ballots and early and absentee voting.

"The November election may be held in a very different manner than in the past in some states. If conditions remain dire throughout the summer, expect a growing number of states to move towards greater use of mail-in-ballots," Dr Farnsworth said. "Even for states that don't make the switch away from largely in-person voting, you can expect much greater opportunities for no-excuse-required early and absentee voting. From the point of viewing of maintaining a democratic political system, changing the manner of elections is a far better response than changing the timing of the election."

According to WHO, the novel coronavirus has infected over 509,164 people worldwide, with over 23,335 recorded deaths.