Washington: President Donald Trump, lagging in the polls and confronted by fresh evidence of an economic collapse and an escalating public health crisis, on Thursday suggested delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election as he pushed unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic will result in fraud.
It was the first time Trump publicly raised the idea of pushing back the balloting. Shifting the election is virtually impossible, but the mere suggestion of delay was extraordinary in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power, including during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II and marked another bracing attempt by Trump to undermine confidence in the American political system.
The date of the presidential election - the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year - is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change, including agreement from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Regardless, the Constitution makes no provisions for a delay in the end of Trump's term - noon on Jan. 20, 2021.
"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump tweeted Thursday. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"
Trump's tweet came just minutes after the government reported that the U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9% 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%.
With just over three months until Election Day, 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, the survey data has raised the possibility that he could face a landslide loss if he doesn't turn things around.
Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on November's election and the expected pandemic-induced surge in mail-in and absentee voting. He has called remote voting options the "biggest risk" to his reelection. His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
No evidence fraud
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states where all votes are mailed in. 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.
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% 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 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."