Editorial: Tweet about delaying vote inappropriate

The Editorial Advisory Board
President Donald Trump

Donald Trump has made a career — both as a businessman and president — of pushing against boundaries of acceptability and taste.

At some points, such as during his campaign in 2016, that boundary-pushing seemed exciting. But at other points, especially lately, the pushing has seemed pathological, a determination to see every challenge facing our country as a personal attack. As the country struggles with a pandemic, a struggle made notably worse from the lack of leadership in Washington, D.C., the limits of Trump’s approach have become evident.

And so we come to the morning of July 30, when Trump sat down to send a tweet that we will reproduce here for the sake of simplicity. The president of the United States wrote: “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???”

The president cannot delay the November election. This isn’t a simple administrative matter. It’s in the Constitution: “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

Congress decided in 1845 that the presidential election would be set for the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Changing or delaying that date would take a vote from the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.

So what was Trump trying to do? Some suggested that he was simply trying to change the subject from bad economic news and the funeral of beloved civil rights hero John Lewis. Others suggested he was laying the groundwork to explain away any loss in November by raising concerns about fraud and mail-in voting.

Whatever Trump’s motivation, his tweet was unacceptable. Fellow Republicans did publicly resist the suggestion on Thursday, which was a positive sign, although many were reluctant to fully engage with the issue. More need to continue to make it clear: Delaying an election in a thinly disguised attempt to retain power — or avoid facing a loss — is unacceptable.

The 50 states know how to administer elections. Many have run mail-in balloting for years and have secure and robust systems for doing so. There has never been evidence of widespread fraud with mailed ballots, and indeed the president has used it before. Especially now, as we face a pandemic, more people should vote by mail to both protect themselves and participate in our democracy.

Trump’s tweet might have simply been a distraction. But it must be denounced and resisted. Americans will have their say in November.