Can a Federal Election Be Postponed?

Congress has the authority to schedule and postpone federal elections.
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Major weather events like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the threat of terrorism have given rise to questions about the timing of federal elections and government's authority to postpone them. Technically, federal elections can be postponed under certain circumstances, but Constitutional authorities point out it would require an act of Congress to happen.

1 Federal Election Scheduling

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to schedule federal elections. While the states and executive branch do hold some authority over federal elections, Congress gets to pick the date, which has been established by statute as the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.

2 Congressional Action

The Constitution does not expressly grant authority to anyone to postpone a federal election, advises a 2004 Congressional Research Service report. The report, however, concludes that Congress could pass a law to reschedule elections in times of emergency or other extenuating circumstances. Congress also has the ability to delegate rescheduling authority to the executive branch or state officials, states the report.

3 States's Rights

States do not expressly have the right to reschedule or postpone federal elections, according to a 2004 Congressional Research Service report. States may allow early voting and can hold elections on another date due to natural disasters, for example.

Sherri Lonon has been a journalist for more than 20 years, writing and editing stories for publications throughout the Tampa Bay area, including The Tampa Tribune and She graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in history. She has a passion for storytelling, medieval history, lore and, on the flip-side, fantasy novels and super heroes.