Trump floats US election delay, but he can't do it -- here's why
Trump gave the idea to delay elections, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote. But his suggestion was immediately rejected by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans in Congress.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday sparked a political firestorm by floating the idea of delaying the November 3 presidential elections, but it was immediately rejected by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans in Congress.
The President suggested the idea of delaying election in a tweet.
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???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster. Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
But the President has no authority to make such move because the US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting. It is the sole branch of government with the authority to make such a change. Trump gave the idea to delay elections, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote.
Seeking his second consecutive term, the Republican leader is facing a formidable challenge from Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, who, according to major national polls, is leading in double digits.
The presidential election date in the US statutorily is set as "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November" equalling "the first Tuesday after November 1".
Later in the day, Trump walked back. "I don't want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don't want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything," Trump told reporters at a news conference when asked about his tweet.
Trump told reporters that mail-in-vote would delay the counting of votes and election results. "I don't want to be waiting around for weeks and months and literally, potentially, if you really did it right, years because you'll never know. These ballots are missing," Trump said.
"That doesn't include absentee. Absentee is different. Absentee you have to work, and you have to send in for applications. You have to go through a whole procedure. For instance, I'm an absentee voter because I can't be in Florida because I'm in Washington. I'm at the White House. So I'll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters and it works," he added.
Democrats are pushing for mail-in-votes. During the COVID-19 pandemic era, a large number of Americans are expected to opt for mail in voting to avoid standing in line and going to a polling booth to exercise their right to franchise.
Trump has expressed fear that this might be rigged and the counting of votes itself might take a long time and the results would not be declared on the night on November 3, which normally happens.
TRUMP'S ELECTION DELAY SUGGESTION DISMISSED
Critics and even Trump's allies dismissed the notion as an unserious attempt to distract from devastating economic news, but some legal experts warned that his repeated attacks could undermine his supporters' faith in the election process.
Trump's statement on Twitter comes as the US is enduring the greatest crises of a generation: A coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 150,000 lives, a crippling recession sparked by the outbreak, and nationwide protests against police violence and racism.
On Thursday morning, the government reported the worst US economic contraction since the Great Depression: 32.9% in the second quarter. The US has held elections for more than 200 years, including during the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars.
Article II of the US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the timing of elections, and the 20th Amendment ends a president and vice president's term in office on the January 20 following a general election.
Multiple congressional Republicans -- including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy -- rejected the idea. "Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election," said McCarthy.
Democratic US Representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee overseeing election security, rejected any delay. "Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President's inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads," he said.
Trump's tweets will deepen Democrats' fears that he will try to interfere with the election or refuse to accept its outcome should he lose. Biden has called that his biggest fear and has gone so far as to suggest sending in the military to force Trump out if he refused to leave.
Democrats are preparing for fights over absentee ballots, potential voting recounts and the possibility that Trump’s Republican supporters will seek to intimidate voters at the polls. The truly dangerous part of Trump’s tweet on Thursday was not his suggestion of delaying the election – which is a "fantasy" – but his latest claim that voting by mail is rife with fraud, according to Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Marymount University and a constitutional law expert.
'JUST CAN'T HELP HIMSELF'
Trump's tweet surprised some White House staffers. The White House referred questions about the Tweet to Trump's re-election campaign. "The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting," said Hogan Gidley, the campaign's press secretary. "Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results."
A Republican close to the White House was stunned at the tweet, noting that it followed a period of stability in which Trump has stayed on message in response to advice from new campaign manager Bill Stepien and senior campaign manager Jason Miller.
"Obviously he just can't help himself. This is starting to look like a real campaign, and then he does this," the Republican source said. "It's awful. It's starting to look like he doesn't even want to win."
Ari Fleischer, who was White House Press Secretary under Republican President George W. Bush, said Trump should delete the tweet. Instead, Trump had pinned it to the top of his list of tweets.
U.S. VOTERS OPPOSE ELECTION DELAY: POLLS
Polls have shown that US registered voters oppose an election delay. When Reuters/Ipsos in April asked voters if they thought the election should be rescheduled due to the coronavirus, 59% opposed the idea, including a majority in each party.
A Biden campaign official called Trump's tweet an obvious ploy to distract from the awful GDP numbers. "We're going to keep our eye on the ball," the Biden campaign official said.
"A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power," Democratic US Representative Dan Kildee wrote on Twitter.
"Don't let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President's lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution."
Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's voting rights project, likewise said Trump lacked the authority to reschedule an election. "This is America," Ho said. "We are a democracy, not a dictatorship. The Constitution sets the date for the election in November. Nothing President Trump says, does, or tweets can change that fact."