Moving the presidential election would require Congressional approval

By Adam Carlson
July 30, 2020 09:57 AM
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President Donald Trump
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump — no stranger to saying all manner of wild things online — on Thursday floated a new and alarming idea on Twitter: perhaps the Nov. 3 presidential election should be delayed because of increased mail ballots during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"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???" he wrote.

His tweet spread widely.

(Not coincidentally, many critics pointed out, the government had just announced that the economy shrank by nearly 10 percent last quarter, as the coronavirus forced widespread shutdowns.)

Regardless of whatever he suggests online about a delay, Trump, 74, does not have the authority to move the Nov. 3 election date. That date is set by federal law.

Changing the day would require Congressional approval — both by the Republican majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives — which makes the chances of such a move exceedingly small.

Indeed, various Republicans soon dismissed the idea out of hand.

"Never in the history of the country, through wars and depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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What's more, the Constitution requires presidential terms to end on Jan. 20 so an election must be held before that day, even if Congress were to consent to changing it, otherwise the speaker of the House would become president.

In a statement later Thursday morning, a spokesman for Trump's re-election campaign re-cast hist tweet as worry about states' capabilities to manage large-scale mail voting for the first time.

"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. ... Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results," the spokesman said.

Trump's tweet was also in keeping with his repeated criticism of mail-in voting and his baseless claims of potentially widespread voter fraud.

According to the Associated Press: "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."

While the fact-checking website Snopes notes "fraud is slightly more common with mail-in voting than in-person voting at polling places," election experts say "all types of voter fraud in U.S. elections is minuscule in comparison to the number of ballots cast."

This year, as he did in 2016, Trump has said he may not personally accept the results of the election, in which he is set to face former Vice President Joe Biden.

"I'm not a good loser," the president told Fox News' Chris Wallace earlier this month, adding: "I don't like to lose."