U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday floated the idea of delaying the November presidential election, although he has no authority to do so, as the Republican incumbent faces a tough battle against his Democratic rival Joe Biden amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Reiterating his claim that widespread use of mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud, Trump tweeted, "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???"
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???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
Trump's attack against mail-in voting, which more states are looking to implement amid public health concerns, is the latest in a series of remarks he has made that appear to be aimed at delegitimizing the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.
His suggestion of postponing the election, however, was swiftly dismissed by members of both the Republican and Democratic parties.
"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," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a TV interview, adding, "We will cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on Nov. 3 as already scheduled."
A U.S. president is not granted the power to delay elections and any such decision would be up to Congress. The Constitution also stipulates that the four-year term of a president and vice president ends on Jan. 20.
Trump said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that he does not want to see the election pushed back but also does "not want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and, the election doesn't mean anything."
Some media reports have pointed to potential problems surrounding vote-by-mail, such as late arrivals and counting delays.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the postal voting system and even suggested during a separate TV interview earlier this month that he may not accept the results of the election.
"Well, I have to see (whether I will do so)," he said.
Widespread use of mail-in ballots may lead to a higher number of votes overall, likely benefiting the Democratic Party, pundits say.
With recent polls showing Trump trailing behind former Vice President Biden at the national level, some political experts speculated that Trump's controversial tweet may have been intended to deflect attention from the dismal news that the U.S. economy contracted at an annualized rate of 32.9 percent in the April-June quarter due to the pandemic, a record drop.
The highly contagious virus has already killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, a higher figure than in any other country.