In a tweet sent out Thursday morning, the president suggested that the election could be postponed due to his concerns over potential voting fraud. Donald Trump has focused on what he alleges is a higher percentage of voter fraud with mail-in ballots. However, there has been no evidence that voting fraud occurs at a higher rate with mailed votes.
What’s more, the president himself votes via mail. In the tweet that he suggested postponing the election, he tries to make a distinction, claiming that “absentee voting” is different than universal voting by mail. However, “absentee” ballot is just another name for a mail-in ballot, muddling the president’s own arguments.
The tweet, which raised eyebrows Thursday morning, seems tailor-made to incense Trump’s opponents. “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump claims with no evidence. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
By posing his suggestion as a question, Trump is trying to distance himself from the implausibility of what he’s saying. This is a common tactic of Trump’s: making an incendiary suggestion or allegation and framing it as “just asking questions”.
Some commentators have belittled this viewpoint by noting how long Trump has been using this tactic. One Twitter comment reads “You tried this in 2010 with Obama’s birth certificate, and now you’re old enough to need RA drug treatments and you’re trying it with elections? Hell no.”
Could the Election be Postponed?
It is highly unlikely that the November election will actually be postponed. The president does not have the authority to set when elections occur. The Constitution is clear about when votes are to be cast and when the president’s term ends. No matter what happens, a president’s term ends four years after they are sworn in. That will be on January 20, 2021.
If both the Senate and House of Representatives agreed, the election could be postponed. However, this is highly unlikely, as Democrats control the House of Representatives. As such, it would be stunning if the election were actually postponed. However, Trump is likely more focused on laying the groundwork for an out in the event that he is defeated in November.
Should Joe Biden receive more votes than Trump, it is likely that he will attempt to characterize his defeat as coming at the hands of voter fraud. He’ll claim the election was rigged, and demand an investigation. Some have suggested that the president may make attempts to stay in office past January 20 even if he loses the election.