In a series of tweets, the President of the United States points out that voting by mail in times of pandemic is not safe.
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, raised this issue on Thursday through his Twitter account the possibility of postponing the presidential elections of November 3 “until people can vote adequately and safely”, alleging unfounded suspicions that the increase in the vote by mail due to the pandemic will cause electoral fraud. This is the first time that the President has raised this possibility, something Democrats have feared since the coronavirus crisis began.
The Presidential election date (the Tuesday after the first Monday in November every fourth year) has been set by federal law since 1845, and the president lacks the power to change it unilaterally. A reform of the law with the lower house of Congress in the hands of the Democrats would be a little less than impossible and could also be challenged in court. The margin of displacement, in any case, would not be very wide either, since the Constitution establishes that the new Congress (there are also legislative elections on the same date) must be constituted on January 3 and the president’s term must begin on the 20th of that same month.
But the mere fact of proposing a postponement constitutes an unusual action for a president, in a country that boasts of being a model in the peaceful transfer of power, and opens the possibility that Trump himself or his most loyal followers question the legitimacy of an election for which, for a few weeks, the polls have given a clear advantage to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
“With the universal vote-by-mail system (not the absentee vote, which is going well), the 2020 elections will be the most fraudulent and imprecise in history. It would be a great shame for the United States. We defer elections until people can vote properly and safely ??? ”, the US president has tweeted.
His chaotic management of the coronavirus crisis, the deteriorating economy, and his impermeability to the clamor for racial justice that has swept the country since the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police in late May have substantially eroded the popularity of the President. For weeks, Biden has been increasing his advantage over Trump in the polls. The average compiled by the Real Clear Politics portal indicates 8.4 percentage points of national average advantage for the former vice president of Barack Obama. Biden prevails in the polls not only at the national level but in some of the states called to be decisive in the presidential ones.
Trump, however, has assured that the non-face-to-face vote constitutes “the greatest risk” for his reelection. In his tweets this Thursday, he maintains that the vote by mail “is proving to be a catastrophic disaster” and accuses Democrats of stirring the spectrum of foreign interference in the electoral processes in the United States but not wanting to face this issue.
There are no data to support the suspicions raised by the President that voting by mail implies fraud. But in the process of the presidential primaries that have been carried out during these pandemic months, it has been seen that in the States where voting by mail was facilitated, participation was considerably higher than in those that only voted in person.
Unlike the date of the elections, established at the federal level, the regulation of voting procedures is generally the responsibility of the States, which has given rise to a complex variety of regulations in the country. The pandemic has forced several states to facilitate voting by mail and that has caused some problems.
In New York, for example, due to the barrage of mail-in ballot applications, the count of primary elections over a month ago has not yet finished. That raises fears that unless there is a clear winner in the November presidential race, the proclamation of a winner could be delayed. That doesn’t mean it had to be “inaccurate and fraudulent,” as President Trump predicts in his tweets.
Later in the afternoon, after the storm unleashed by his morning tweets, the president has returned to the issue, again feeding the possibility of challenging the legitimacy of the elections. “We must know the results of the elections on election night, not days, months, or even years later!”
Trump’s suggestion has been met with criticism from both the Democratic and Republican ranks. Mitch McConnell himself, leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, has distanced himself from the idea: “Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and civil strife, have we stopped holding federally scheduled elections on time. We will find a way to do it again this November 3” he said in a television interview. “Election day will be November 3, 2020. Mr. President, please don’t even try to mess with this. It’s a damaging idea, ”Republican Ari Fleisher, who was press secretary to President George W. Bush, has tweeted. “There will be elections, they will be legitimate, they will be credible, it will be the same as it has always been”, Senator Marco Rubio, Trump’s rival in the 2016 primaries and today a loyal supporter of the president, has told journalists on Capitol Hill. Democrat Nancy Pelosi, leader of the majority in the House of Representatives, has limited herself to tweeting the article of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to set the date of the elections.
Trump’s tweets proposing a postponement of the elections came in the morning that the Commerce Department has released the terrible data on the impact of the pandemic on the economy. GDP fell 32.9% in the second quarter of the year, at an annualized real rate, an unprecedented collapse of the economy, both in size and speed.
The hit of the pandemic has robbed Trump of what was the main argument for his reelection: an extraordinarily long uninterrupted cycle of economic growth that the President hoped would serve him a second term on the platter, and that the coronavirus has blown up.