WASHINGTON — President Trump suggested that the 2020 elections should be delayed as he railed against mail-in voting Thursday morning — the latest escalation in what appear to be attempts to delegitimize an election he might lose.
“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 tweeted Thursday.
For the record, the president has no power to delay the elections, scheduled for Nov. 3. That power rests with Congress, and since Democrats control the House, there’s approximately zero chance that this would occur. The Constitution also makes no exceptions for the end of the current presidential term: Jan. 20, 2021.
But Trump’s tweet represents his latest attack against mail voting, a method that has become increasingly popular and necessary to keep voters safe during the coronavirus.
Mail voting has its problems, and it isn’t foolproof. But Trump has consistently lied about its dangers, claiming its use will lead to widespread voting fraud.
There’s no evidence of this, and while mail voting is a bit more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting, it’s been incredibly rare to see widespread voting manipulation. Many states that mostly use mail voting have seen almost no cases of fraud — and it has been more popular with Republicans than Democrats in past elections.
Trump himself has regularly voted by mail.
The tweet immediately drew bipartisan backlash.
“There is only so much stupid Americans should be asked to tolerate on a daily basis,” tweeted Rory Cooper, a former senior White House and Congressional GOP strategist who’s now involved in the #NeverTrump movement.
”So dangerous. Straight out of the authoritarian playbook,” warned Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan.
Polls suggest that Trump’s repeated attacks on mail voting are dissuading Republicans from voting by mail, making Democrats much more likely to use it this election. Because mail ballots take longer to count, this could lead to a scenario where Trump leads in some key states on election night before those states move gradually to Democrats in the days and weeks after the election, allowing him to claim fraud even as none is occurring and undercutting voters’ trust in democracy.
That may not matter too much, if Trump ends up losing the general election by the same wide margin he’s trailing at in recent polls. But if things tighten up even slightly, that could lead to widespread uncertainty after election night.
And while the election itself can’t be delayed, individual states could make moves to restrict voting, using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse — a potential danger in places where the GOP controls all the levers of power.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures after delivering a speech at a Double Eagle Energy Holdings LLC oil rig in Midland, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Cooper Neill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)