President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the 2020 elections on Thursday morning, as he invoked repeatedly disproven claims that mail-in voting is susceptible to voter fraud.
Trump did not say whether he would seek to postpone the elections, but rather suggested the idea to his Twitter followers.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The president’s tweet contained a number of inaccuracies. For example, his claim that absentee ballots have more protections against fraud than mail-in voting has been refuted by fact-checking organizations.
The chances of an illegal ballot being cast through the mail is so slim that individuals actually have a higher chance of being struck by lightning than becoming the victims of voter impersonation fraud. Indeed, only 31 ballots out of billions cast over a 15-year period were found to be fraudulent, according to an analysis from The Washington Post.
Others on social media noted that the president has no authority to change the date of elections. “There is no law or Constitutional provision that allows a president to ‘delay’ the election,” Mother Jones’s D.C. Bureau Chief David Corn wrote in a tweet.
“Trump CANNOT delay the election,” Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and a former director of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, chimed in. “Date of the general election is set by federal law, fixed since 1845. It would take a change in federal law — an act of Congress — to move that date.”
Journalist Sam Stein suggested that Trump might be attempting to distract voters from bad news about the economy this morning.
Trump’s suggestion of delaying the 2020 election comes soon after voting rights and legal experts raised alarms over the possibility that the president’s deployment of federal police into Democrat-led cities could be used to intimidate and suppress in-person voting.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian who is an expert on authoritarianism and fascism, said Trump’s tweet “is a fine example of his propaganda tactics: float the idea (trial balloon) and have it amplified by allies until it becomes something possible.”
The idea that Trump could try to delay or cancel the presidential election, in light of the increasing probability he could lose, has been raised in the past, including by his main opponent in the race, Democratic Party presumptive nominee Joe Biden.
“Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden predicted in April.