WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican governors Thursday swiftly denounced President Donald Trump's suggestion the November presidential election be delayed, defending the legitimacy of voting by mail and assuring voters the election will take place Nov. 3.
The blowback from the state level added to the chorus of bipartisan criticism nationally that followed Trump's tweet in which he warned mail-in voting would lead to the most "INACCURATE AND FRAUDULENT Election in history" before posing the question: "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, fired back at the president in a series of tweets: "@realDonaldTrump, Illinois will hold our election as required by law on November 3rd."
Pritzker called the right to vote "essential," adding that's why he signed a law to expand vote-by-mail and make elections in Illinois safer during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The President cannot move an election," Pritzker said. "We will not allow you to undermine the foundations of our democracy. Everyone: keep November 3 on your calendar."
The President cannot move an election. We will not allow you to undermine the foundations of our democracy.
Everyone: keep November 3 on your calendar. 3/3
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) July 30, 2020
Delaying a presidential election would be unprecedented – the nation did not do so even during the Civil War and World War II.
The date of the presidential election, the first Tuesday of November, is set by federal law, meaning Congress, not the president, has the power to change it. Even if the president and Congress wanted to delay the election, it would be a virtually impossible climb legally, analysts said.
"Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd," New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican and Trump supporter, tweeted: "End of story. Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different."
Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story. Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different.
— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) July 30, 2020
Trump's tweet, which he pinned atop his Twitter page, came after months of sagging poll numbers showing him losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump has long been on a crusade against mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which he's slammed as a plot by Democrats to "rig the election."
"No," Nellie Gorbea, the Democratic secretary of state of Rhode Island, said on Twitter. "Americans can properly, securely and safely vote from home as well."
The U.S. Constitution requires congressional elections every two years. To hold congressional and presidential elections together, a delayed presidential election would still need to take place in 2020.
"If we could hold an election in 1864 in the midst of a Civil War, we can and will hold one in 2020," Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a frequent target of Trump, tweeted. "It’s time for the president to get his priorities straight and work with Congress on a recovery package that protects our families, frontline workers, and small business owners."
Frank LaRose, the Republican secretary of state of Ohio, in a tweet assured Ohioans the U.S. must hold its election on Nov. 3. He said Ohio will have four weeks of absentee voting, early in-person voting and voting on Election Day "as we always have."
"And we will be ready," he said. "Ohio will have a safe, secure and accurate Election Day."
Despite Trump's warnings about vote-by-mail fraud, the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York School of Law said it's more likely for an American to "get struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud." Out of billions of votes cast across all U.S. elections from 2000 to 2012, one analysis found only 491 cases of absentee voter fraud.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, called the president's tweet about delaying the election "troubling, dangerous, and another sign he has lost touch with reality. Register, then vote on November 3rd."
As outlined in the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the four-year term of a president, in this case Trump, ends at noon on Jan. 20. Therefore, if the presidential election were somehow not held, Trump would not simply continue to hold office.
Instead, the new speaker of the House, or Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats maintain control, would be first in line to be acting president. But if the congressional election were not held either, Pelosi's term would end Jan. 3. That would make the president pro tempore of the Senate – currently Grassley – the acting president, according to federal law.
Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, slammed Trump, calling on the president to focus on the pandemic.
"Vote by mail is safe and secure. You can't delay the election. 150,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Stop tweeting. Do your job," Inslee said on Twitter.
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) July 30, 2020
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Governors slam Trump for floating the delay of presidential election