US President Donald Trump on Thursday raised the possibility of delaying the nation’s November presidential election despite its date being enshrined in the country's constitution, drawing immediate objections from Democrats.
It was not clear if Trump was serious and any such move would require action by the US Congress, which holds the power to set the timing of elections.
Trump, without evidence, repeated his claims of mail-in voter fraud and raised the question of a delay, writing: “delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, which have been used in far greater numbers in primary elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. He has also made unsubstantiated allegations that voting will be rigged and has refused to say he would accept official election results if he lost.
Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, have already begun preparations to protect voters and the election amid fears that Trump will try to interfere with the November 3 election.
“A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power,” said Democratic Representative Dan Kildee on Twitter. “Don’t let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President’s lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution.”
US Senator Tom Udall, also a Democrat, said: “There is no way @POTUS can delay the election. We shouldn’t let him distract us from his #COVID19 incompetence.”
Trump refused in an interview just weeks ago with Fox News to commit to accept the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote.
“I have to see. Look [...] I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on “Fox News Sunday”. “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes’. I’m not going to say ‘no’ and I didn’t last time, either.”
Trump and many members of his administration have previously availed themselves of absentee voting, but Trump has sought to differentiate that from a growing push by states to mail all registered voters either ballots or absentee request forms.
Voters and public health officials have expressed concerns about the potential dangers for spreading the virus during in-person voting, and states have reported difficulty filling poll worker positions given the pandemic.
Last month, Trump told supporters in Arizona that “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes. Five states already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, and they say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote. Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.