US President Donald Trump on Thursday in a series of tweets suggested a delay to the 2020 election — which polls show him losing — but the suggestion drew cross-party fire and has virtually no chance of being accepted.
Trump, who faces Democrat Joe Biden on November 3, has no constitutional authority to change the date, which is set by law.
His mere airing of the idea, however, broke with presidential custom, adding to tension in a country ravaged by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and set on edge by bitterly partisan politics.
Trump’s rationale was his claim, not backed by evidence that large-scale use of mail-in voting as a way to protect voters during the pandemic will lead to mass fraud.
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Mail-in voting will make it “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” he said in a tweet.
“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump asked.
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
The tweet came minutes after second quarter data showed a 32.9 percent annualized collapse in the economy compared to the first quarter, and down 9.5 percent compared to the same April-June period last year.
Economic pain and mass unemployment is a big reason why Trump finds himself staring down the barrel of defeat in less than 100 days.
Polls show him trailing Biden heavily, including in several must-win swing states, and being relegated to a rare one-term presidency.
“Trump’s threat is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from today’s devastating economic numbers that make it clear his failed response to the coronavirus has tanked the US economy,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
“Trump can tweet all he wants, but the reality is that he can’t delay the election, and come November, voters will hold him accountable.”
Presidential elections are scheduled by law to take place on the first Tuesday after November 1, which this year is the 3rd.
The United States has never allowed a delay, holding elections even during the Civil War, and only Congress could change the timing.
With Democrats ruling the House of Representatives and Trump’s Republicans in the Senate swiftly voicing opposition, the idea will not get far.
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this November 3,” the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, told WNKY television.
Asked for a reaction, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Trump ally, said: “I wish he hadn’t said that.”
“We’re going to have an election, it’s going to be legitimate,” he said.