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President Trump’s true motives behind his suggestion to delay the 2020 election

Updated: Aug 12

BY: Dima Kiwan

In a tweet on Thursday morning, President Trump suggested delaying the 2020 general election on account of voting fraud concerns – a stunning move resulting in a political firestorm from both sides of the aisle. With COVID-19 devastating the United States, many expect a surge in mail-in voting this November due to public health regulations, and as states prepare for this reality, widespread debate and research on this practice are being carried out in courts across the country. Trump claims that universal mail-in voting will render this year’s election “the most inaccurate and fraudulent” in history, proposing that it be delayed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.” 

In a news conference later that day, the President reiterated these supposed concerns, claiming that “[he doesn’t] want a delay […] but [he also doesn’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.” Trump also affirmed that mail-in voting facilitates forged ballots and foreign interference from countries such as Russia and China. 

First and foremost, Trump has absolutely no authority to delay the general election. The Constitution grants this power to Congress, and even if such legislation passed (which is extremely unlikely), the electoral college is still required by federal law to elect a president. If Congress agreed against all the odds to change that as well, the 20th amendment of the Constitution requires Trump and Pence to leave office by noon on January the 20th. 

For several critics, the timing of these comments is of utmost importance, especially because Trump’s claims lack substantial evidence. For one, the universal mail-in voting system that he references, in which all voters automatically receive a ballot via mail, is currently only set to be the case in 7 states. In 40 others, voters must request a mail-in absentee ballot (which Trump repeatedly supports and uses himself), except this year they do not need to provide a reason other than the pandemic on their application. 

The specific mechanics of mail-in voting are yet to be finalized and vary widely between states as courts consider the best special security measures for this year. Such safeguards include witness signatures, attached copies of voter ID and cross-checking ballot signatures with those on file. In this respect, the narrative that hundreds of millions of ballots will be thrown in the air unregulated come November is simply untrue. 

In terms of statistics, a recent report from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab concludes that from the approximately 250 million ballots cast by mail in America in the last 20 years, the fraud rate is only 0.00006%. Additionally, the cases that Trump often cites to support his claims, such as the local election in Paterson, New Jersey which saw relatively high rates of mail-in fraud, are often isolated and highly unlikely to occur nationally according to several election experts and local officials.  

So, if mail-in voting fraud is not a real issue, why does Trump want to delay the election? Taking a closer look at the context of his comments suggests that the President is spreading voting fraud concerns to mask possible election strategies. From a partisan lens, postal voting in November could significantly increase overall voter turnout, which has historically favoured Democrats as it generally means more low-income and non-white people cast their ballots.

Another major factor to consider is the dire state of the US economy. Sixteen minutes before Trump tweeted his suggestion, devastating GDP numbers were released for the second quarter, showing a record drop due to the pandemic. As Trump was relying on a strong economy and low unemployment for his re-election campaign, it is not unlikely that he made such a shocking proposition to distract the mainstream news cycle from these disappointing numbers. 

Not to mention, it is no secret that Trump is trailing behind in the polls in key battleground states with less than 100 days to the election. For this reason, many analysts say he is setting up the foundation to undermine or even dispute the November election results – a telling sign that the President may not be as confident as he appears on Twitter. 

As for reaction to Trump’s tweet, the pushback has been immediate, clear and widespread. Not only did this proposition receive strong backlash from legal scholars, historians and prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but it also engaged senior Republicans and conservatives that regularly back Trump on various controversial issues. 

Ari Fleischer, Liz Cheney, Marco Rubio, Lindsey O. Graham, Kevin McCarthy and even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell unequivocally opposed the President’s idea, many appalled at his public disregard for the limits of his authority. Steven G. Calabrese from the Conservative Federalist Society went as far as to label Trump’s comments “fascistic” and “grounds for immediate impeachment.”

On social media, American youth have equally demonstrated their outrage, condemning Trump’s idea as an unacceptable attempt to suppress minority voters and undermine voter confidence this November. 

Despite all the heavy and indisputable criticism, the President does not appear particularly fazed. As his campaign spokespeople scramble to clean up this mess, Donald Trump continues denying the numbers, whether they be coronavirus cases, polling results or voting fraud rates. 


*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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