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Trump suggests delaying election over unsubstantiated claims about vote by mail

Trump suggest delaying 2020 presidential election
Trump suggests delaying 2020 election as virus deaths rise and economy shrinks 02:15

Washington — President Trump on Thursday raised the possibility of delaying the November general election over unsubstantiated claims that mail-in-voting will invite voter fraud, despite the fact that he lacks the authority to push back the date of the November 3 contest.

Citing the expansion of mail-in-voting, Mr. Trump claimed the upcoming election "will be the most inaccurate & fraudulent election in history" and a "great embarrassment to" the United States.

"Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" Mr. Trump tweeted.

While the president claimed there will be "universal mail-in voting," just five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — conduct their elections entirely by mail. Twenty-nine states do not require voters to provide an excuse to vote absentee. Many state election officials, however, have been exploring ways to expand vote-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the safety of voters. On Wednesday, the death toll in the U.S. due to COVID-19 surpassed 150,000, and over 4.3 million cases have been reported across the country.

The president does not have the power to change the date of the election. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections and to determine the date electors will cast their vote for president. According to a March report from the Congressional Research Service, Congress has since 1845 "required states to appoint presidential electors on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which represents the date by which voters in every state must cast their ballot for president."

A 2004 report from the Congressional Research Service states that "while the Executive Branch has significant delegated authority regarding some aspects of election law, this authority does not currently extend to setting or changing the times of elections."

Further, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution states the president and vice president's terms end at noon on January 20. 

The current makeup of the Congress, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate, makes it highly unlikely that any legislation pushing back the date of the election would pass.

The idea of moving the election was met with skepticism by congressional Republicans, including his close allies.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who golfs with Mr. Trump on occasion, told reporters "delaying the election probably wouldn't be a good idea" and said he believes people can "safely vote in person in November." Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, said he believes "election fraud is a serious problem," but does not think the election should be delayed.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa reiterated the date of the election has been set by Congress for decades.

"We are a country based on the rule of law," he said, "so nobody is going to change anything until we change the law."

Mr. Trump has for weeks suggested that mail-in voting would lead to voter fraud and claimed the 2020 election would be "rigged" because foreign countries could print mail-in ballots. But election officials told CBS News last month that there are a number of safeguards in place to prevent foreign interference, and legal experts say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. A database of election fraud cases compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, shows few instances of absentee voter fraud in battleground states.

While Mr. Trump frequently complains about vote-by-mail, this appears to be the first time he has suggested moving the date of the election. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, predicted in April that Mr. Trump would attempt to postpone Election Day.

"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 said during a fundraiser. "Imagine threatening not to fund the Post Office. Now what in God's name is that about? Other than trying to let the word out that he's going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That's the only way he thinks he can possibly win."

Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said Mr. Trump is "just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting."

"Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results, as proven by the New York Congressional primary where we still don't know who won after more than a month," he said in a statement.

Attorney General William Barr was pressed by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing Tuesday about Mr. Trump's claims the election would be "rigged" and whether the president can move the date of the election. The attorney general told lawmakers he had "no reason to believe" the contest would be rigged and, regarding changing Election Day, said he hadn't "looked into that question under the Constitution."

Mr. Trump's tweet about delaying the election comes after the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy shrank at a record-breaking 32.9% rate in the second quarter of this year, a devastating report for the president as he seeks to pin his reelection on the economic success of his administration's policies.

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