I don't want to delay polls, Trump says in about-turn

Employees conducting logic and accuracy testing of the voting equipment at the Miami Dade-County Election Department's office in Florida on Wednesday. The state will hold its primary election on Aug 18. President Donald Trump has claimed, without evi
Employees conducting logic and accuracy testing of the voting equipment at the Miami Dade-County Election Department's office in Florida on Wednesday. The state will hold its primary election on Aug 18. President Donald Trump has claimed, without evidence, that ramped-up mail voting would be rife with fraud but praised absentee voting, which is also done by mail. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Both Republicans and Democrats reject President's earlier call to postpone Nov 3 vote

WASHINGTON • Hours after suggesting a possible delay in the US presidential election, President Donald Trump said he did not want to postpone the vote but remained concerned about millions of mail-in ballots, as both Republicans and Democrats swiftly rejected his idea of postponing the vote.

Congress is the sole branch of government with the authority to make such a change.

Critics and even Mr Trump's allies dismissed the notion as a not serious attempt to distract from devastating economic news.

Mr Trump's Twitter statement on Thursday came as the US is enduring a multi-pronged crisis: a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 155,000, a crippling recession and nationwide protests against police violence and racism.

On Thursday morning, the government reported the worst economic contraction since it started keeping records in 1947, a record 32.9 per cent annualised pace in the second quarter.

Mr Trump, who is trailing his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls, said he would not trust the results of an election that included widespread mail voting - a move that many observers see as critical given the pandemic.

He also claimed, without evidence, that ramped-up mail voting would be rife with fraud but praised absentee voting, which is also done by mail. "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," he wrote on Twitter. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

At a White House news conference later in the day, Mr Trump did not repeat his call for a delay in the Nov 3 election, but said he was worried about fraud and a long wait for results from counting mail ballots.

"I want an election and a result, much, much more than you," he said. "I don't want to delay."

"But I also don't want to have to wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn't mean anything," he added.

Mr Trump cited media reports about potential problems with mail-in ballots arriving late and said it could take weeks, months or even years to sort it out. "Do I want to see a date change? No, but I don't want to see a crooked election," he said.

 
 
 

PRESIDENT'S CLAIMS

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???

U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on Twitter on Thursday.


WHAT HE WANTS

I want an election and a result, much, much more than you. I don't want to delay... but I don't want to see a crooked election.

MR TRUMP, hours later at a White House press conference.


REPUBLICAN RESPONSE

Never in the history of the country - through wars, depressions and the Civil War - have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this Nov 3.

MR MITCH MCCONNELL, the Senate Majority Leader.


DEMOCRATS STAND FIRM

Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President's inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads.

DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE ZOE LOFGREN

Some congressional Republicans - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy - rejected the idea.

"Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election," said Mr McCarthy.

Mr McConnell told WNKY television: "Never in the history of the country - through wars, depressions and the Civil War - have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this Nov 3."

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House committee overseeing election security, said: "Under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the President's inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic, or give credence to the lies and misinformation he spreads."

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll released yesterday showed Americans across the political spectrum have widespread concerns that the Nov 3 election will be marred by fraud, interference or efforts to suppress the vote.

About half of registered voters, including some 80 per cent of Republicans surveyed, are concerned that an increase in voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud. This suggests a wide swathe of the US may have trouble accepting the result of the election.

The poll, done on Wednesday and Thursday partially before Mr Trump's tweet, also found nearly three-quarters were concerned about voter suppression or possible election interference.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'I don't want to delay polls, Trump says in about-turn'. Print Edition | Subscribe