WASHINGTON — President Trump used a White House briefing on Thursday afternoon to reiterate unfounded concerns about mail-in voting in the forthcoming presidential election. Earlier in the day, on Twitter, he floated the possibility of delaying the election “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”
Trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in both national and swing state polls, Trump was asked if he would seek to delay Election Day since many states have been pushing ahead with plans to send residents mail-in ballots.
“Do I want to see a date change? No,” Trump responded. “But I don’t want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history if that happens.”
The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 151,000 Americans, is almost certain to complicate in-person voting on Nov. 3. At the same time, Trump has insistently claimed that voting by mail — the seemingly safest option to avoid transmission of the virus — will be subject to fraud.
Trump himself has voted by mail, as have many of his senior staffers. Voting by mail has not been shown to be subject to any statistically significant amount of fraud, but the claims have nevertheless found traction with some conservatives.
Presidents do not have the authority to delay elections, but Trump’s claims have led some to suspect that he is seeking to preemptively discredit a contest that polls consistently show Biden leading. Trump’s sagging poll numbers against Biden have been reflected in negative approval ratings when it comes to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday alone, the nation recorded 1,449 new coronavirus deaths. One of those who died was Herman Cain, the businessman and onetime Republican presidential contender. Cain contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after attending a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month. His death was announced on Thursday morning, and Trump began his briefing by acknowledging his passing.
“He was a very special person,” Trump said of Cain. “I got to know him very well, and unfortunately he passed away from a thing called the China virus.”
During the question portion of the briefing, however, the president was repeatedly asked about the idea of delaying the election.
Issuing warnings about a “rigged” election is nothing new for Trump. Ahead of the 2016 election, Trump suggested that voting would be skewed to favor his opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton. Even after he took office, he maintained that millions of people had voted fraudulently in California and New York, though no evidence has ever been found to bolster that assertion.
While Congress does have the power to change the date of Election Day, most Republicans in Washington roundly rejected that idea on Thursday. Nevertheless, Trump continued to make his argument that allowing states to ramp up mail-in voting as a public health precaution would result in a “crooked election.”
“I just feel I don’t want a delay, I want to have the election,” he told reporters. “But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen; that’s common sense.”
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