The US Capitol is seen as the sun sets in Washington on October 19, 2023 ( AFP / SAMUEL CORUM)

Joe Biden has no authority to suspend 2024 election

The US Constitution grants Congress the power to set the timing of presidential elections, but social media posts claim Joe Biden gave himself the ability to suspend polls in the event of a new pandemic or other emergency. This is false; an April 2024 executive order makes no mention of elections, and constitutional experts say presidents have no authority to modify the electoral calendar.

"Tyrant can suspend Presidential elections 'IF' a new pandemic hits the U.S.!" says an April 26 Facebook post.

The post links to an article that makes a series of unsupported allegations about Executive Order 14122 (archived here). The piece does not say the measure would give Biden the ability to suspend elections -- instead, it repeats debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 contest.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken May 3, 2024

Other social media users have also claimed the US  president could use emergency powers to halt the vote set for November 5, 2024, in what is expected to be a rematch between Biden and Donald Trump. The narrative surfaced amid concerns that Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, will not accept the results if he is defeated.

But the latest online claims about Biden's powers, or those of any US president, are false. 

Biden signed an executive order April 12, 2024 that eliminated the position of Covid-19 coordinator and transferred those functions to the Office of Pandemic Preparedness Response. The measure also rescinded pandemic safety measures such as mask mandates.

The order grants Biden no power to modify a federal law requiring a vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (archived here). Experts say no president can suspend or halt this process.

"The Constitution allows Congress, not the president, to set the date of presidential elections," said Michael Morley, a professor specializing in election law at Florida State University (archived here), in a May 3 email.

"State law or court rulings may allow for an extension or postponement in the very rare, unlikely and extreme case a catastrophic disaster prevents voting from occurring on Election Day within a state or otherwise precludes a substantial fraction of a state's electorate from casting ballots that day. But President Biden would have no control over that."

Timeline of key events leading to the US presidential election on November 5, 2024 (AFP / Jonathan WALTER, Anibal MAIZ CACERES, Gal ROMA, Sophie STUBER, Jean-Michel CORNU)

The same issue surfaced in 2020 when then-president Trump suggested a postponement as the coronavirus pandemic kept Americans at home and closed many public facilities.

At the time, experts said the dates for the election and transfer of power could not be modified. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report came to the same conclusion (archived here).

The nonpartisan government agency also studied the issue in 2004 amid concerns over terrorist attacks (archived here). The report suggested some possibilities for modification but noted that the executive branch could not order it.

"While the Executive Branch has significant delegated authority regarding some aspects of election law, this authority does not currently extend to setting or changing the times of elections," the CRS said.

AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims about the 2024 US presidential election here.

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