US presidential elections

Why is Trump asking to delay the 2020 presidental election?

The U.S. president on Thursday suggested the November presidential election be delayed so that people could "properly, securely and safely" vote.

Why is Trump asking to delay the 2020 presidental election?
YURI GRIPAS / POOL EFE

Donald Trump was reeled in by senior Republican figures after suggesting the November presidential elections be postponed due to the White House incumbent’s concerns over in-mail voting fraud. It is a theme the president has warmed to against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and in May he was censured by Twitter for posting remarks stating mail-in ballots would be "substantially fraudulent" and result in a "rigged election." The U.S. Constitution does not allow a president the power to alter the date of an election, something that only Congress has the remit to approach. 

Trump on Thursday posted a message suggesting the November presidential elections could be postponed so that U.S. citizens could "properly, securely and safely" vote when he faces off against Democratic nominee Joe Biden for the keys to the White House. Opposition party members immediately condemned the president and suggested he was trying to deflect attention away from the Covid-19 crisis and grim economic forecasts.

Biden leads Trump in polls

Biden has assumed a healthy lead in the polls with his opponent’s popularity plummeting amid criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, rampant unemployment and protests across the US following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, leading to the controversial deployment of federal agents in Portland.

According to a Financial Times analysis, if the election were to be held now Biden would trounce Trump in the Electoral College by 308 to 128. In the national polls, the FT calculates Biden holds a 50-41 percent lead over the current president.

The White House remained silent on Trump’s tweet but senior GOP members rejected the idea out of hand. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the election would go ahead as planned while Trump ally Kevin McCarthy dismissed any change to the polling schedule.

McConnell: "We'll have the election as scheduled"

"We'll cope with whatever the situation is, and have the election on Nov. 3 as already scheduled," McConnell said in an interview with WNKY-TV.

McCarthy, the House Republican Leader told reporters: “Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election, and we should go forward with our election.”

McCarthy said he understood Trump's concern about the integrity of mail-in voting, distinguishing it from absentee voting that he said can be easily traced and confirmed.

"If you just mass-mail ballots out, people have moved, voter rolls are not updated, and that's where you have real problems in elections," McCarthy said. "That's what the president's talking about, he's not talking about absentee voting."

Romney: "You can't tamper with paper"

Republican Senator Mitt Romney also rejected the delay and noted that about 90 percent of voters in his home state of Utah submit ballots by mail.

"It works extremely well," Romney said. "You can't tamper with paper."

Nearly one in four voters cast 2016 presidential ballots via mail when Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to the White House. According to electoral experts, the decentralized nature of U.S. elections makes it very hard to interfere with mailed ballots.