WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump raised the idea of delaying the United States presidential elections scheduled to be held on 3rd November later this year.
The idea was immediately rejected by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans in Congress – the sole branch of government with the authority to make such a change.
Both critics and allies dismissed the notion as an unserious attempt to distract from devastating economic news. Legal experts warned that his repeated attacks could undermine his supporters’ faith in the election process.
Trump’s statement on Twitter comes as the United States is enduring a multi-pronged crisis – a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 150,000 lives, a crippling recession sparked by the outbreak, and nationwide protests against police violence and racism.
On Thursday morning, the government reported the worst US economic contraction since the Great Depression, a slump of 32.9% in the second quarter.
Trump is trailing Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden. He has said he would not trust the results of an election that included widespread mail voting. The measure is seen as critical given the coronavirus pandemic but Trump claimed that mail voting would be rife with fraud
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
At a White House news conference later in the day, Trump did not repeat his call for an election delay but said he was worried about fraud and a long wait for results from counting mail ballots.
The United States has held elections for more than 200 years, including during the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars. Article II of the US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the timing of elections, and the 20th Amendment ends a president and vice president’s term in office on the 20th January following a general election.
Multiple congressional Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy rejected the idea. “Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” said McCarthy.
Trump wrote on Twitter that Americans needed to know the election results on the night of the voting, not days or months later. Mail-in ballots can sometimes take longer to count.
The White House referred questions about the tweet to Trump’s re-election campaign. A Biden campaign official called Trump’s tweet an obvious ploy to distract from the awful GDP numbers. “We’re going to keep our eye on the ball,” the Biden campaign official told a news agency,