US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (not in photo) in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 20, 2020, in Washington. (EVAN VUCCI / AP)
US President Donald Trump on Thursday raised the possibility of delaying the nation’s Nov 3 presidential election, though the Constitution bestows that power on Congress, not the president.
READ MORE: Trump: No delay for November election
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump suggested the election should be delayed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote,” something he cannot do without the consent of Congress. It is unlikely the Democratic-controlled House would approve such a move.
The tweet comes as Trump has repeatedly said the election will be “rigged” and declined to say whether he would accept the results if he were to lose.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump said in a tweet Thursday. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Under a law signed by President John Tyler in 1845, the presidential election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It cannot be changed without an act of Congress
Trump’s tweet came minutes after the Commerce Department reported the economy shrank at a record 32.9 percent pace in the second quarter and Labor Department figures showed increasing numbers of Americans claiming state unemployment benefits.
The move drew immediate objections from Democrats and it was not clear whether Trump was serious.
Trump, who is trailing challenger and former vice president Joe Biden in opinion polls, had previously intended to focus his re-election bid on the nation’s economic performance.
Biden suggested in April that Trump might seek to delay the election.
Trump responded to Biden’s suggestion by telling reporters at the White House that “I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that? November 3rd. It’s a good number. No, I look forward to that election.”
Trump would not be able to delay the election on his own.
Under a law signed by President John Tyler in 1845, the presidential election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It cannot be changed without an act of Congress.
Trump currently trails Biden by 8 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, as well as in averages of polls in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station inside Portsmouth middle school in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, US, on Feb 11, 2020. (ADAM GLANZMAN/BLOOMBERG)
Democrats, including Biden, have already begun preparations to protect voters and the election amid fears that Trump will try to interfere with the November election.
Nonpartisan US election analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia said the tweet seemed to follow Trump’s typical approach of trying to distract voters from bad news
“A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power,” Democratic Representative Dan Kildee wrote on Twitter. “Don’t let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President’s lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution.”
US Senator Tom Udall, also a Democrat, said, “There is no way @POTUS can delay the election. We shouldn’t let him distract us from his #COVID19 incompetence.”
Nonpartisan US election analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia said the tweet seemed to follow Trump’s typical approach of trying to distract voters from bad news.
“Trump suggesting delaying the election (he can’t do this w/o congressional approval) seems to be one of his more obvious attempts to change the subject given this morning’s wretched GDP numbers,” Kondik wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s tweet also misstates some key facts about vote-by-mail. Although terminology differs state by state, there is no difference between mail-in voting and absentee voting. Elections officials have stopped using the latter term as most states no longer require an excuse, such as being absent on Election Day, to request a mail-in ballot.
“Universal” vote-by-mail, meantime, generally refers to the policy of sending every registered voter a mail-in ballot automatically. Only six largely Western states plan to do so in November.
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