WASHINGTON (CN) — Ratcheting up his attacks on mail-in voting, President Donald Trump pondered openly on Thursday about delaying the November election many polls show him destined to lose.
“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???” Trump tweeted this morning (emphasis original).
The U.S. Constitution specifically and unambiguously states that only Congress is tasked with choosing the date of a general election and that the date must be uniform across the nation. That date has been the same since 1845 when it was determined that Election Day would be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The president’s tweet also confuses the verification process for mail-in voting and absentee voting. The president has routinely drawn incorrect distinctions between the two.
An absentee ballot is cast, typically by mail, from a person who cannot appear at a voting center on Election Day.
A mail-in ballot is basically the same, but is a term used broadly to refer to ballots that are sent through the mail.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and professor of constitutional law, said in a phone interview Thursday that the very premise of delaying the election in November was, on its face, “destructive and absurd.”
“We had elections in America in the middle of the Civil War,” Raskin said. “We had elections in America in the middle of World War II. The biggest threat to the 2020 election is the president himself. He is looking for any possible way to disrupt the election.”
As of this week, FiveThirtyEight’s approval-tracking poll for the president showed him with a staggering 54.9% disapproval rating. Last week, Monmouth University Polling showed Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, gaining an edge in key battleground states.
Mail-in ballots have been an integral part of sustaining the precepts of American democracy since its inception.
One of the earliest instances of absentee voting took place in 1775 during the American Revolution when a group of soldiers in the Continental Army sent their request to vote absentee in New Hampshire as they fought the British away on the frontlines. As quoted today in a post by the Constitutional Accountability Center, the town approved their requests if the “men were present themselves.”
Elections have continued uninterrupted through terrorist attacks like 9/11 and the scourge of world wars, pandemics, and civil unrest or unprecedented economic upheaval.
But to imagine scenarios or a situation so extreme that Congress — the sole body with the authority to delay or move Election Day — is not even worth consideration, Raskin said.
He considers a meatier topic what it takes to ensure Congress has the financial investment it needs to promote election security.
“And to make sure that all of the balloting takes place in a safe an efficient way,” Raskin said. “We don’t want people exposed to Covid-19 like in Wisconsin where they had to wait in long lines outside.”
Over in the Senate this week, Democrats and Republicans are in negotiations on another round of economic relief. The majority has proposed at $1 trillion package that omits more appropriations for election security in its first draft.
Democrats in both the House and Senate have proposed measures to beef up voter security as well as access through mail-in voting, but whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will acquiesce is uncertain. The Senate already approved a $1.2 billion investment for election security in the Cares Act this March but has resisted calls for greater investment like what is found in the Heroes Act.