Trump floats election delay, claims voter fraud risks amid virus

President Trump sends tweet suggesting US presidential election should be delayed as states plan to use mail-in ballots

President Donald Trump waves as he walks from Marine One as he returns to the White House from Texas, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump has repeatedly without proof said mail-in voting will allow fraud in the election [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

United States President Donald Trump on Thursday raised for the first time the possibility of delaying the US November presidential election.

Trump raised the question of a delay on Twitter and without evidence claimed risks of mail-in voter fraud.

Trump tweeted on 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???”

Trump has made repeated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud. Many US states and localities are moving to use mail ballots to prevent risks of coronavirus infection.

The dates of federal elections are set by Congress which is unlikely to act, and the US Constitution makes no provisions for a delay of the January 20, 2021 inauguration of the next president.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes.

Trump trails his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in US public opinion polls.

Biden predicted in April that Trump would try to postpone the US election.

“Between he and the Russians, there’s going to be an attempt to interfere” in the election, Biden said in an online fundraising event on April 23.

“This president, mark my words, I think he’s going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with a rationale why it can’t be done,” Biden warned.

Trump quickly rebuffed that comment on April 27 saying that Biden’s warning was “made-up propaganda” and that he “never even thought of changing the date of the election”.

On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee chairman Representative Jerrold Nadler tweeted a response to Trump’s idea of delaying the election, saying that only Congress has the power to change the election date.

Trump’s tweet came on a day of bad economic news and amid a dark political patch for his re-election effort, both driven in part by a nationwide resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The government reported on Thursday just minutes before Trump’s tweet that the US economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, by far the worst quarterly plunge ever, as the coronavirus outbreak shut down businesses, threw tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7 percent.

And Trump trails in the polls, nationally and across battleground states, and some surveys even suggest traditionally Republican-leaning states could be in play. While Trump has come back before after trailing consistently in the polls throughout 2016, it has raised the possibility that he could face a landslide loss if he can not turn things around.

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 does not disrupt the vote. Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.

US elections: Partisan disagreement over postal voting

One Republican governor, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, quickly shot down Trump’s idea: “Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story. Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100 percent of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different.”

Hogan Gidley, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, pointed to the delays in counting votes in New York’s primary. “The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting. 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. ”

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. And Trump 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.

Trump refused in an interview just weeks ago with Fox News to commit to accept the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote.

“I have to see. Look … I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either.”

Trump and many members of his administration have previously availed themselves of absentee voting, but Trump has sought to differentiate that from a growing push by states to mail all registered voters either ballots or absentee request forms.

Voters and public health officials have expressed concerns about the potential dangers for spreading the virus during in-person voting, and states have reported difficulty filling poll worker positions given the pandemic.

Trump’s stated concern for poll safety defies his otherwise aggressive push to “reopen” the nation from partial shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus, even as rising confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths have pushed the US to the top of the list for the world outbreak.

“He has absolutely no power to do this,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law School. “And Congress is not going to vote to change the statute that has governed for decades and decades when and how we hold elections. This is just sowing chaos.”

Last month, Trump told supporters in Arizona that “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.”

There appears to be next to no appetite in the Capitol for a change to the November 3 election. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replied to Trump’s tweet by tweeting a quote from the constitution assigning Congress the power to set the timing of elections.

Democrats have pushed to include billions of dollars in the next coronavirus relief bill to fund election security and accessibility improvements for this year’s vote, but Trump and Republicans have so far resisted those efforts.

Senate Majority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell did not respond to questions about Trump’s tweet on the way to the Senate floor on Thursday morning.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies