In a tweet on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump raised the spectre of postponing the Nov. 3 election. (AP)
U.S. President Donald Trump is for the first time floating a “delay” to November’s presidential election, as he makes unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.
The dates of federal elections — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November — are enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the Jan. 20, 2021, presidential inauguration.
Trump tweeted Thursday: “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???”
His tweet came on a day of bad economic news. The government reported that the U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9 per cent annual rate in the April-June quarter, by far the worst quarterly plunge ever, as the coronavirus outbreak shut down businesses, has thrown tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7 per cent.
Most grimly, over 150,000 Americans have now died.
Voter fraud rare
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes. Five states already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, and they say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote.
Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.
Twitter has previously affixed a warning to a Trump tweet about mail voting that contained dubious claims.
Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on November’s election and the expected surge in mail-in and absentee voting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He has called remote voting options the “biggest risk” to his re-election.
His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
Last month, Trump told supporters in Arizona that “this will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.”
In an interview with Fox News, Trump was evasive when pressed to answer whether he would accept the results of the Nov. 3 vote.
“I have to see,” he told Chris Wallace. “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no and I didn’t last time, either.”
Trump in fact set up a commission to examine his unfounded claim that “millions” of votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 were fraudulent. The commission quietly faded away, having not substantiated the claim.
Barr also raises concern about mail-in voting
William Barr, his attorney general, testified at a House committee hearing on Wednesday, without offering evidence, that “if you have wholesale mail-in voting, it substantially increases the risk of fraud.”
Democrats have also raised concern, given the likelihood of increased mail voting, over recent developments at the U.S. Postal Service. There have been recent reports of increased delays in receiving mail amid budget concerns, while Trump has installed a Republican donor — Louis DeJoy, the husband of the incoming U.S. ambassador to Canada, Aldona Wos — to the USPS’s top post.
Reaction was swift on social media to Trump’s tweet on Thursday.
“This would be nothing less than a coup against the people of the United States and the constitution,” tweeted veteran California congresswoman Jackie Speier.
Added former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill: “Any Republican who fails to denounce ‘delay the election’ should be run out of office. Immediately.”