On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump suggested that the November presidential election be delayed, claiming without evidence that expanded mail-in voting would lead to fraud. The suggestion comes as polls continue to show Trump lagging behind the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by a two-digit margin.
The president tweeted that the election should be pushed back because mail-in voting would lead to “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.” Amid the pandemic, many states are expanding access to mail-in voting, and 34 states are allowing people to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.
The suggestion was met with swift criticism from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, usually a fervid Trump loyalist, told CNN, “I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea,” when asked about Trump’s tweet.
“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We’ll find a way to do that again this November 3rd,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Following the tweet, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker accused Trump of attempting to “delegitimize the election,” and saying that the president admires authoritarian leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a simple response to Trump’s suggestion, tweeting a segment of the U.S. Constitution that reads: “The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
In reality, experts say mail-in ballot fraud is extraordinarily rare, and that it is not a major or widespread problem in the nation’s election system. In 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice put the risk for mail-in ballot fraud somewhere between .00004 percent and .0009 percent.
At a White House press briefing later in the day, Trump walked back his comments about delaying the election, saying, “Do I want to see a date change? No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history, if that happens.”
Trump also tweeted that he was glad he sparked a discussion among the media about the alleged “risks” of mail-in voting.
Conflicts surrounding mail-in voting are often tied to the impact the practice has on voter turnout. An article published by The Washington Post following Trump’s tweet highlighted that when it comes to mail-in voting, “Republicans are seeking tighter regulation of the process,” while Democrats are typically open to more leniency. It also underscored that, in regards to voting, “high turnout favors Democrats because it means more nonwhite and low-income voters are participating.” Some states that expanded access to mail-in voting over coronavirus fears in June saw voter turnout surge to its highest levels in years as a record number of people voted via mail.
Just 96 days before the election, a senior administration figure at the White House has said that Trump was “simply raising a question.” The U.S. presidential election has taken place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every year since 1845.