Updated: 10:04 a.m.
President Donald Trump is for the first time floating a "delay" to November's presidential election, as he makes unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.
The date of the presidential election — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change, including agreement from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay in the end of Trump's term — noon on Jan. 20, 2021.
Trump tweeted Thursday: "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's tweet came on a day of bad economic news and amid a dark political patch for his reelection effort.
The government reported Thursday that U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, by far the worst quarterly plunge ever, as the coronavirus outbreak shut down businesses, threw tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7 percent.
And Trump trails in the polls, nationally and across battleground states, and some surveys even suggest traditionally Republican-leaning states could be in play. While Trump has come back before after trailing consistently in the polls throughout 2016, it’s raised the possibility that he could face a landslide loss if he doesn’t turn things around.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes. Five states already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, and they say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn't disrupt the vote. Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.
One Republican governor, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, quickly shot down Trump's idea: “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."
Hogan Gidley, the Trump campaign's national press secretary, pointed to the delays in counting votes in New York's primary. “The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting. They are using coronavirus as their means to try to institute universal mail-in voting, which means sending every registered voter a ballot whether they asked for one or not. "
Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on November's election and the expected surge in mail-in and absentee voting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And Trump has called remote voting options the "biggest risk" to his reelection. His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
Trump refused in an interview just weeks ago with Fox News to commit to accept the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote.
“I have to see. Look ... I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either.”
Trump and many members of his administration have previously availed themselves of absentee voting, but Trump has sought to differentiate that from a growing push by states to mail all registered voters either ballots or absentee request forms.
Voters and public health officials have expressed concerns about the potential dangers for spreading the virus during in-person voting, and states have reported difficulty filling poll worker positions given the pandemic.
Last month, Trump told supporters in Arizona that "This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country."
There appears to be next-to-no appetite in the Capitol for a change to the Nov. 3 election. Democrats have pushed to includes billions of dollars in the next coronavirus relief bill to fund election security and accessibility improvements for this year's vote, but Trump and Republicans have so far resisted those efforts.
Just months ago, in April, Trump had ruled out the prospect of trying to change the election. “I never even thought of changing the date of the election," he said. "Why would I do that? Nov. 3. It’s a good number. No, I look forward to that election.”
“I’m not thinking about it at all," he added. "Not at all.”
And in March, Trump opposed moves by several states to delay their presidential primaries because of the coronavirus.