Donald Trump

Citing NY, Trump floats delaying presidential election

The president claimed recent failures show absentee ballots are an ineffective and “fraudulent” way to conduct elections.

Donald Trump returns to the White House on July 29, 2020.

Donald Trump returns to the White House on July 29, 2020. Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the presidential election on Twitter “until people can properly, securely and safely vote,” suggesting that mail-in voting could create the "most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history." And the president has pointed to his erstwhile home state of New York as proof.

The president also claimed that mail-in voting creates more opportunities for foreign interference and that there’s no way to get an accurate vote count. However, Trump cannot legally delay the election. It is unclear whether he envisions delaying all congressional, state and local elections that coincide with the presidential contest this November.

Hours earlier Trump took aim at the voter disenfranchisement that took place during New York’s primary in June, arguing that the “same thing would happen, but on massive scale, with USA.”

While the president has asserted that all elections that have used mail-in ballots, including New York, caused “catastrophic disaster,” 34 states that already allowed absentee voting have had few issues with mail-in voting. 

During New York’s primary, many voters shared that their absentee ballots had not arrived in time for them to mail back their ballots by election day. It was also later revealed that the Board of Elections discarded thousands of absentee ballots because of the US Postal Service neglected to postmark them. 

However, this isn’t proof that mail-voting inherently doesn’t work. New York’s recent issues with mail-in voting have more to do with its unique lack of preparedness and its notoriously inept boards of elections, which have disenfranchised thousands of New Yorkers voting in person in every recent election as well. 

Prior to the pandemic, most New Yorkers opted to vote in-person, in part because the state has strict absentee voting laws that were only relaxed this year due to health concerns. In 2018, absentee ballots only accounted for about 4% of total voter turnout on Election Day – one of the lowest percentages in the country. “We’re really doing what is essentially close to a vote by mail for the first time,” Zebrowski Stavisky, second vice president of the New York State Election Commissioners Association, told City & State in May. “I would say in my professional career, this is the most daunting challenge.”

Local boards of election throughout the state were also well aware that they would be overwhelmed with a record number of absentee ballots, prior to the June election. None of the state’s 58 election boards were provided with additional funding to account for the higher volume of mail-in ballots, which could have enabled them to hire temporary workers to sort through all of the ballots. The state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also did not bother to adjust the law to avert some obvious potential pitfalls, for example by removing the post-marking requirement.

If Trump wanted to improve mail-in voting, he could always ask Congress to create a new stimulus package to assist state boards of elections with additional federal funding that would allow them to hire temporary workers to assist them with counting ballots. He also could make it safer to vote in person by utilizing the Defense Production Act and providing additional funding to expand the supply chain of coronavirus testing materials, which would be necessary to reduce wait times for test results. However, considering the growing Republican disdain for absentee ballots and for coronavirus testing, that seems about as likely as a postponed presidential election.

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