Donald Trump has floated the idea of delaying the US election amid the coronavirus pandemic, a remarkable suggestion with few modern US historical parallels.
The US president made the suggestion in a tweet once again claiming that postal ballots, expected to be used much more widely in this year’s vote, could lead to fraud.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Mr Trump tweeted.
“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The comment goes against earlier remarks in the campaign when Mr Trump said he was not considering pushing back the election, due to take place on November 3.
It comes with Mr Trump far behind Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in polls both on a national level and in the battleground states.
Such a drastic proposal less than 100 days before the vote takes place will likely see Mr Trump accused of political opportunism by his opponents.
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
Mr Trump does not have the power to unilaterally delay the election. The US Congress is given the power to set election dates and would need to approve any change.
Given the Democratic Party, Mr Trump’s political opponents, hold the House of Representatives, one half of Congress, that is very unlikely to happen as things stand.
Theoretically it would be possible for the election to be pushed back. It is the inauguration date – the day in January that the president must leave office – rather than voting day which is written into the US Constitution. But Congress would need to back any delay.
There was an immediate backlash to Mr Trump’s suggestion on Capitol Hill. Joe Manchin, the moderate Democratic senator for West Virginia – a state which Mr Trump won comfortably in 2016 – said he had heard no support for a delay in Congress.
“They’re not in favour”, Mr Manchin told CNN, referencing conversations he has had with other congressmen on both sides of the aisle. “I don’t see any traction other than the president’s tweets.”
The context in which Mr Trump made the suggestion was mail-in ballots, something that he has repeatedly denounced, claiming increased use of postal voting will lead to a “rigged” election.
Since the coronavirus outbreak struck America many states have either increased the number of mail-in ballots they are sending to households or changed the rules for who is allowed to use one, citing concerns over safety from in-person voting.
Polls also suggest that many more voters are going to vote by mail in the 2020 election cycle amid the backdrop of a pandemic, meaning historic levels of postal voting is expected.
Mr Trump has claimed mail-in ballots are more open to fraud. Election experts question the evidence base for the suggestion. Mr Trump has given few specifics to back up the claim.
Critics suggest that Mr Trump appears to believe that more Democrats will vote by mail, though some political strategists question this, noting it has benefitted Republicans in some past races.
The row has blown up with Mr Trump facing the prospect of defeat with a little over three months to go in the campaign, according to polls, which offer a snapshot of where the race is now.
Mr Trump trails Mr Biden by around eight percentage points on a national level, according to a poll tracker which averages out findings run by the website Real Clear Politics.
New polling for The Telegraph revealed a bleak picture in battleground states too, with Mr Trump behind in the six states he won by the narrowest margins in 2016.
We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.
News – Donald Trump suggests delaying US election over coronavirus and mail-in vote concerns