For example, in Louisiana, state law allows the governor to reschedule an election because of an emergency, so long as the secretary of state has certified that an emergency exists. In March, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin did just that. (In fact, they later postponed the primary election for a second time, buying more time for the state to prepare to hold its vote amid the pandemic.)
Table Of Contents
Have federal officials considered moving a general election in the past?
It was reported in 2004 that some Bush administration officials had discussed putting in place a method of postponing a federal election in the event of a terrorist attack. But that idea fizzled quickly, and Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, said that the United States had held “elections in this country when we were at war, even when we were in civil war. And we should have the elections on time.”
What about the procedures for voting in the November election?
While the date of the presidential election is set by federal law, the procedures for voting are generally controlled at the state level.
That’s why we have such a complicated patchwork of voting regulations, with some states allowing early and absentee voting; some permitting voting by mail or same-day voter registration; others requiring certain kinds of identification for voters; and many states doing few or none of those things.
During the pandemic, several states have tried to make it easier for voters to use mail-in ballots, helping them to avoid going to polling places on Election Day. In Michigan, for example, the secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, mailed absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million registered voters for the state’s August primary election and plans to do so again for the general election.
Even before this year, five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — regularly conducted their elections almost entirely by mail.
Other states have struggled to manage a flood of absentee ballots. In New York, where voters requested hundreds of thousands more absentee ballots than in a typical election, officials are still counting votes more than a month after Primary Day. A key race in the 12th Congressional District is still unresolved.