Elections

Delaying an election is incredibly difficult, but here's what experts say could happen to the economy if the 2020 election were postponed

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Can the U.S. economy survive a delayed election?
Key Points
  • The chances of a delayed election is slim; the House and Senate must agree to postpone the election.
  • Political chaos caused by a postponed election could bring major disruption to the economy, since delaying the results could add the pressure of uncertainty on the already fragile American marketplace.

Tensions over the validity of a mail-in election are growing.

"This is the greatest scam in the history of politics," President Donald Trump declared in one of his appearances at this week's Republican National Convention. "They're going to mail out 80 million ballots. It's impossible, they have no idea."

The president first mentioned the issue in a July 30 tweet, suggesting the U.S. should delay the election until the polls are ready to open without the threat of a pandemic.

While a delayed election is highly unlikely, the ensuing political chaos could crush the U.S. economy.

Delayed election results would add more uncertainty to the American economy, already fragile from the effects of Covid-19. "When we see uncertainty go up, we see that economic actors including investors stop making decisions," said political economist Mauro Guillen. "And it is precisely putting decisions on hold, which has potentially such devastating consequences."

Experts predict that the market would become volatile if the election is delayed. "The element of surprise would be so big that I think the market and the economic decision-makers would be so shocked that I think we would have a period of some chaotic developments in the market and in the economy," Guillen warned.

Nonetheless, setting an exact date for the election is vital in getting an accurate result from the voters. "We want all of the electorate to know that when they make their choice reliably, it's not going to be ignored. It's not going to be postponed. It's going to be listened to," said Justin Levitt, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department. "To maintain that confidence, we need the election schedule to be set."

Most experts agree that the chances of a delayed election are slim. "It's up to Congress," Levitt said. "Both the House and the Senate have to agree to change Election Day in order for that Election Day to change. Now, there's an awful lot that Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell don't necessarily agree on. It's extremely unlikely that they're going to agree to move Election Day for any reason whatsoever."

During this week's Republican National Convention, some Republicans questioned the legitimacy of mail-in voting. All eyes are on Trump to see whether he will press the issue.