President Donald Trump explicitly floated delaying November’s presidential election on July 30, lending an extraordinary voice to persistent concerns that he will seek to circumvent voting in a contest where he currently trails his opponent by double digits. Hours later, President Trump seemed to acknowledge the move was meant to be a “trial balloon” of sorts primarily to inject uncertainty into an election he appears determined to undermine, though he did not entirely back away from the notion of a delay. Trump has no authority to delay an election, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting. Lawmakers from both parties said almost immediately there was no likelihood the election would be delayed and even some of Trump’s allies said his message reflected the desperate flailing of a badly losing candidate. Yet as toothless as it was, Trump’s message did provide an opening, long feared by Democrats, that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the presidential results. In questioning it ahead of time, Trump is priming those in his camp to doubt the legitimacy of whatever outcome emerges in the first weeks of November.
In his Twitter post early on July 30, coming 96 days before the election and minutes after the federal government reported the worst economic contraction in recorded history President Donald Trump offered the suggestion because he claimed without evidence the contest will be flawed. “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,” he wrote. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” During a late-afternoon news conference, President Trump was asked to explain his motivations. At first, he suggested he was trying to avoid a drawn-out counting process that might stretch for days or weeks if large numbers of voters cast ballots by mail. But he eventually acknowledged the real impact of his message: sowing doubts early in whatever outcome emerges in November. “What people are now looking at is … are all these stories right about the fact that these elections will be fraudulent, they’ll be fixed, rigged,” he said. “Everyone is looking at it,” Trump added. “A lot of people are saying that probably will happen.”
There is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud. American elections have proceeded during wars and depressions without delay. The general election has been fixed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November since 1845. President Donald Trump has previously sought to stoke fear and lay the groundwork to question the election’s results by promoting the idea that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and a “rigged” election. Democrats have warned his efforts are meant both to suppress voting and to provide a reason to refuse to leave office should he lose. Trump’s representatives had previously scoffed at Democratic suggestions he would attempt to delay the election, claiming they were unfounded conspiracies. His tweet marks the first time Trump has openly raised the idea of moving the date of voting. On July 30, Trump’s campaign said the President was offering a query. “The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting,” campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “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.”
President Donald Trump’s Twitter post comes as a spate of recent polling in battleground states, and even states he won handily in 2016, show him trailing or virtually tied with former Vice President Joe Biden, and widespread disapproval of his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. While Trump has encouraged states to lift restrictions on businesses and said schools must reopen for in-person learning in the fall, his suggestion that the election might be delayed because of the pandemic undermines his efforts to act as the Coronavirus is under control. Due to the utter failure of his policies, President Trump has turned instead to stoking racial divisions and appealing to white voters as he works to consolidate support among the constituencies he won in 2016. And he has taken steps to undermine the election results in ways that reflect an extraordinary break in tradition. Asked during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace last week whether he would accept the results of the election, Trump refused. “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either,” he said.
Responding to President Donald Trump’s comments, both Republicans and Democrats said Trump’s suggestion was a non-starter. “I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of President Trump’s strongest allies. “I think that’s probably a statement that gets some press attention, but I doubt it gets any serious traction,” said Senator John Thune, the Senate Republican whip. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply replied to President Trump’s tweet quoting the passage in the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to set the date of elections. Presumptive Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden has previously raised the possibility of Trump attempting to delay the election. “Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser in April, according to a pool report. At the time, a spokesman for Trump said the claim amounted to “incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality.”