WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump suggested on Thursday that November’s presidential election be postponed until people can vote safely without the fear of getting infected by the coronavirus.

Mr Trump, who often uses social media to announce major decisions and for floating his ideas, once again went to Twitter to test his latest idea.

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

His Democratic challenger Joe Biden, however, reminded Americans that “Donald Trump (too) voted by mail” but was trying to prevent others from doing so. “You should be able to as well,” he added.

Mr Biden warned back in April that Mr Trump might try to delay the Nov 3 general election, saying, “Mark my words I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held”.

The Washington Post reported that “the US Constitution gives the power to regulate the time, place and manner of general elections to the US House and Senate, with Congress also empowered to alter the rule … (but) nowhere is the president granted such power”. And Presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted that “there has never been a successful effort to delay the presidential election” in the United States.

Mr Trump has long railed his supporters against mail-in voting, claiming that postal votes can be rigged easily. He also linked his postponement idea to the safety of voters during the Covid-19 pandemic — which has already killed more than 150,000 Americans. But the US media insisted that he was doing so because he was afraid of his poor ratings in recent opinion polls.

“Trailing badly in the polls, the president baselessly suggested the November election would be the most inaccurate and fraudulent in history,” The New York Times commented.

“The president of the United States floating the idea of delaying the elections … that’s a pretty stunning thing to say from the White House,” commented NBC News.

The news channel claimed that a 32 per cent contraction in the US economy and his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis were forcing Mr Trump to seek the delay.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump also suggested — without providing evidence — that mail-in voting, would be susceptible to foreign interference.

“The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-in Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race,” wrote the president while referring to complaints that Russia influenced the 2016 election that Mr Trump won.

Mr Trump claimed that postal voting was “already proving to be a catastrophic disaster” in areas where it was being tried out.

Despite Mr Trump’s concerns, some US states have already announced facilitating postal voting due to public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

In June New York allowed voters to vote by post in the Democratic primary. Earlier this month, six US states announced plans to hold “all-mail” voting in November. About half of 50 US states allow registered voters to vote by post on request but a growing number of states have acknowledged considering “all-mail” votes in November.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020