Trump suggests delaying election over unsubstantiated claims about vote by mail

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WASHINGTON (CBS News) — President Trump on Thursday raised the possibility of delaying the November general election over unsubstantiated claims that mail-in-voting will invite voter fraud, despite the fact that he lacks the authority to push back the date of the November 3 contest.

Citing the expansion of mail-in-voting, Mr. Trump claimed the upcoming election “will be the most inaccurate & fraudulent election in history” and a “great embarrassment to” the United States.

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“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Mr. Trump tweeted.

While the president claimed there will be “universal mail-in voting,” just five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — conduct their elections entirely by mail. Twenty-nine states do not require voters to provide an excuse to vote absentee. Many state election officials, however, have been exploring ways to expand vote-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the safety of voters. On Wednesday, the death toll in the United States due to COVID-19 surpassed 150,000, and over 4.3 million cases have been reported across the country.

The president does not have the power to change the date of the election. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate the “time, place and manner” of congressional elections and to determine the date electors will cast their vote for president. According to a March report from the Congressional Research Service, Congress has since 1845 “required states to appoint presidential electors on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which represents the date by which voters in every state must cast their ballot for president.”

A 2004 report from the Congressional Research Service states that “while the Executive Branch has significant delegated authority regarding some aspects of election law, this authority does not currently extend to setting or changing the times of elections.”

Further, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution states the president and vice president’s terms end at noon on January 20.

The current makeup of the Congress, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate, makes it highly unlikely that any legislation pushing back the date of the election would pass.

Mr. Trump has for weeks suggested that mail-in voting would lead to voter fraud and claimed the 2020 election would be “rigged” because foreign countries could print mail-in ballots. But election officials told CBS News last month that there are a number of safeguards in place to prevent foreign interference, and legal experts say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. A database of election fraud cases compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, shows few instances of absentee voter fraud in battleground states.

Mr. Trump’s tweet about delaying the election comes after the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy shrank at a record-breaking 32.9% rate in the second quarter of this year, a devastating report for the president as he seeks to pin his reelection on the economic success of his administration’s policies.