WASHINGTON: Donald Trump has quickly taken back his suggestion to delay November’s presidential election over alleged fraud concerns after he failed to garner support from top Republicans.
Seeking a second consecutive term, Trump is facing a formidable challenge from Democratic nominee and former vice president Joe Biden, who, according to major national opinion polls, has double digit lead over the Republican president.
The presidential election date in the US statutorily is set as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” equalling “the first Tuesday after November 1”.
Trump on Thursday for the first time openly floated the idea of postponing the presidential elections on November 3, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote. The suggestion was immediately criticised by leaders of the opposition Democratic Party. He also failed to garner support from his own Republican Party.
Later in the day, Trump walked back on his suggestion.
“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything,” Trump told reporters at a news conference when asked about his tweet suggesting election be delayed.
“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 tweeted on Thursday morning.
Reacting to Trump’s suggestion, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, told CNN when asked about the President’s call to delay the election: “I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea.”
Graham said he believed Trump’s “concerns about mail-in voting are valid, but delaying the election is not the right answer.”
Majority Whip Senator John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, said that there will be an election in November despite the President’s tweet.
“I think that’s probably a statement that gets some press attention, but I doubt it gets any serious traction,” he said.
“I think we’ve had elections every November since about 1788, and I expect that will be the case again this year,” he said.
“We’ve had elections during wars. We’ve had elections during depressions. We’ve had elections during civil unrest,” Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told reporters. “We should have our election when it’s scheduled in November, and I’m sure we will.”
Any change of date would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats control the House of Representatives and some have already said they will not support any delay to the vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, responded to the President with a tweet of her own quoting the Constitution, that gives Congress the authority to “determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Vote.”
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states:“The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, a… https://t.co/LtJOeT5Xro
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) 1596120210000
At his White House press conference, Trump said that the Mail-in-Vote would delay the counting of votes and election results.
“I don’t want to be waiting around for weeks and months and literally, potentially, if you really did it right, years because you’ll never know. These ballots are missing,” Trump said.
“That doesn’t include absentee. Absentee is different. Absentee you have to work, and you have to send in for applications. You have to go through a whole procedure.
“For instance, I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida because I’m in Washington. I’m at the White House. So I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters and it works,” he added.
Democrats are pushing for Mail-in-Votes. During the COVID-19 pandemic era, a large number of Americans are expected to opt for mail in voting to avoid standing in line and going to a polling booth.
Trump has expressed fear that this might be rigged and the counting of votes itself might take a long time and the results would not be declared on the night on November 3, which normally happens.
“It’s very, very unfair to our country. If they do this, our country will be a laughingstock all over the world because everyone knows it doesn’t work,” the president added.