TRUMP FLOATS IDEA OF ELEC­TION DE­LAY

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD / OBITUARIES - BY ZEKE MILLER AND COLLEEN LONG

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, lag­ging in the polls and grap­pling with deep­en­ing eco­nomic and public health crises, on Thurs­day floated the star­tling idea of de­lay­ing the Nov. 3 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. His cam­paign to sow doubt about the elec­tion’s out­come drew im­me­di­ate push­back from Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike in a na­tion that has held it­self up as a bea­con to the world for its his­tory of peace­ful trans­fer of power.

Trump sug­gested the de­lay as he pushed un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions that in­creased mail-in vot­ing due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic would re­sult in fraud. But shift­ing Elec­tion Day is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, and the very idea rep­re­sented an­other brac­ing at­tempt by Trump to un­der­mine con­fi­dence in the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

The date of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — the Tues­day af­ter the first Mon­day in Novem­ber in ev­ery fourth year — is en­shrined in fed­eral law and would re­quire an act of Congress to change.

Top Repub­li­cans in Congress quickly re­buffed Trump’s sug­ges­tion. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell said the elec­tion date is set in stone, and House GOP leader Kevin Mc­Carthy said the elec­tion “should go for­ward” as planned. Re­gard­less, the Con­sti­tu­tion makes no pro­vi­sions for a de­lay in the end of Trump’s term — noon on Jan. 20, 2021.

“With Univer­sal Mail-In Vot­ing (not Ab­sen­tee Vot­ing, which is good), 2020 will be the most IN­AC­CU­RATE & FRAUDULENT Elec­tion in his­tory,” Trump tweeted Thurs­day. “It will be a great em­bar­rass­ment to the USA. De­lay the Elec­tion un­til peo­ple can prop­erly, se­curely and safely vote???”

Af­ter fac­ing blow­back from Repub­li­cans for even float­ing a de­lay, Trump ap­peared to re­treat on Twit­ter Thurs­day af­ter­noon, sug­gest­ing he was merely try­ing to high­light al­leged prob­lems with mail-in bal­lot­ing. “Do I want to see a date changed, no,” Trump said later dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the coro­n­avirus re­sponse. “But I don’t want to see a crooked elec­tion.”

Trump has in­creas­ingly sought to cast doubt on Novem­ber’s elec­tion and the ex­pected pan­demic-in­duced surge in mail-in and ab­sen­tee vot­ing. He has called re­mote vot­ing op­tions the “big­gest risk” to his re­elec­tion. His cam­paign and the Repub­li­can Party have sued to com­bat the prac­tice, which was once a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage for the GOP.

In fact, only five states con­duct elec­tions en­tirely by mail, although more states ex­pect to rely more heav­ily on mail-in bal­lots in Novem­ber be­cause of the virus out­break. Ex­perts as­sess that de­lays in count­ing mail-in bal­lots could mean re­sults won’t be known on Elec­tion Day.

There is no ev­i­dence of wide­spread voter fraud through mail-in vot­ing and the states that use it ex­clu­sively say they have nec­es­sary safe­guards in place to en­sure that a hos­tile for­eign ac­tor doesn’t dis­rupt the vote. Elec­tion se­cu­rity ex­perts say that voter fraud is rare in all forms of bal­lot­ing, in­clud­ing by mail.

TONY GU­TIER­REZ/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks Wed­nes­day dur­ing a visit to the Dou­ble Ea­gle En­ergy Oil Rig in Mid­land, Texas.

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