Donald Trump received a lot of flak on Thursday for suggesting that the election should perhaps be postponed, in order to avoid fraud and other issues. While some supported the move, even many conservatives panned it. What informs Trump’s prediction that this election could be rigged, and does he have a point?
In a tweet on Thursday, Trump wrote,
“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???”
Many politicians and pundits were incensed by Trump’s suggestion to delay the election.
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Mainstream media outlets left little doubt as to their position on the issue. Major headlines included:
“Trump Floats Delayed Election Despite Lack of Authority to Do So” -CNN
“Trump’s Election Delay Tweet Undermines Democracy” – New York Times
Some conservatives also moved to nix the idea. Mitch McConnell affirmed the need to hold elections on time, saying,
“Never in the history of the Congress, through wars, 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.”
Media outlets also pointed out an alleged hypocrisy in the Trump Administration condemning election delays in Hong Kong. As China floats delaying Hong Kong’s elections, critics say it is just a move to further undermine democracy. The election delay is consistent with China’s persistent efforts to remove Hong Kong’s special status as an autonomous democratic zone.
Trump Foretells Fraud
The president has doubled down on his rigged election rhetoric, saying that “people oughta get smart” about election security.
Speaking to White House reporters, Trump said,
“They think they’re going to send hundreds of millions of ballots all over the United States and it’s gonna come out [fine]. You won’t know the election result for weeks, months, maybe years after. Maybe you’ll never know the election result. That’s what I’m concerned with – it’ll be fixed. It’ll be rigged.”
The president clarified that he does not explicitly want to see the election postponed, but is worried that the final decision could be delayed, and the validity challenged, if mail-in ballots are the primary voting method.
“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything.”
The president is correct in saying that this will be a unique election in US history. It will be the first election in which a sizeable portion of the votes, perhaps more than half, will be mailed in. How to implement such an election presents great challenges. How can votes be counted quickly and safely?
At this time, it is unlikely that the election will be delayed. It is not something that the president can unilaterally order, and he is unlikely to get the level of congressional support needed to make it happen. He is right, however, to raise concerns about the risks to the secure, timely execution of these elections.