As his poll numbers have slipped, Donald Trump renewed his complaints against mail-in voting on Thursday, but this time he also suggested that the Nov. 3 presidential election could be delayed.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” he wrote on Twitter.
But federal law sets the date of the election as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It is not up to the president. To change that date would require an act of Congress, i.e. the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House. As historians quickly noted, not even during other moments of crisis, like World War II, has the date of the vote been changed.
Even if a delay were to happen, that would not change the fact that Trump’s term would still end at noon on Jan. 20, 2021. To change that would require a constitutional amendment.
Trump’s 2020 rival, Joe Biden, predicted back in April that Trump “is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.” Trump’s campaign then attacked Biden as being conspiratorial, and the Republican National Committee’s spokesman even said that he was “off his rocker.”
What Trump can do is throw doubt on the election results. As his poll numbers have dropped, he has been on a tear in suggesting that state moves toward mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud.
Experts, though, say that mail-in voting fraud is rare. Factcheck.org has done a number of stories examining Trump’s claims. In June, the site wrote, “many voting experts say Trump’s warnings that hundreds of thousands or millions of ballots will be sent in and that ‘nobody’s going to know the difference’ isn’t possible. There are enough logistical hurdles and security safeguards to prevent that from being successful, they say.”
Trump’s tweet came as news networks focused on the latest economic stats, showing that gross domestic product plunged by 32.9% on an annualized basis in the second quarter. To an extent, that figure was expected, as April to June was the most widespread period of shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
After the president’s tweet, his campaign spokesman, Hogan Gidley, issued a statement in which he said that the president “is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting.
Gidley added, “They are using coronavirus as their means to try to institute universal mail-in voting, which means sending every registered voter a ballot whether they asked for one or not. Voter rolls are notoriously full of bad addresses for people who have moved, are non-citizens, or are even deceased. Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results, as proven by the New York Congressional primary where we still don’t know who won after more than a month.”
In the hours after Trump’s tweet, seem Senate Republicans rejected the idea, while others said that it was harmful to even suggest the idea.
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter, “This is not an idea anyone, especially POTUS, should float. Our democracy is based on elections in which everyone knows the rules and they apply to all. Election Day is and will be Nov 3, 2020. Mr. President – please don’t even pretend to mess with this. It’s a harmful idea.”
He added, “If I were POTUS, I would quickly delete this tweet.”