WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - President Trump is floating the idea of delaying November’s election and one north country political science professor is calling it “dangerous to democracy.”
The president made the comment in a tweet shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday.
He 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.” And added the question, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Top Democrats and Republicans have spoken out against the idea of delaying the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a Kentucky reporter Thursday the election date is “set in stone.”
Their position is important because as one Clarkson University professor tells us, it’s Congress, not the president who decides when we hold federal elections.
“Even Congress’ ability to do this is fairly limited, although they conceivably could, but there’s nothing in there for the president to have that power and that was very deliberate,” said Alexander Cohen, assistant professor of political science at Clarkson.
While he says it’s highly unlikely the president can or even will try to delay the election, even the suggestion of it undermines the legitimacy of our democracy by preemptively casting doubt on the results.
“It’s very well studied that, if you have an election that people don’t believe in, then the costs to democracy are very high and the costs in terms of social discord are very high,” said Cohen.
A spokesperson for President Trump’s campaign released a statement, saying in part, “The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting.”
On the other hand, while the president’s tweet rails against “mail-in voting,” he says “absentee voting” is good.
According to Jefferson County’s Republican Elections Commissioner Jude Seymour, there is no difference between the two.
“I think the reason the president is making that distinction is, he votes by mail, his family votes by mail and so he’s trying to make some sort of distinction where there is none. Saying that somehow absentee balloting is not corrupt, but universal mail-in ballots is corrupt, honestly they’re counted the same exact way. They’re done by the same exact people, so I don’t see his point,” he said.
Seymour says the issues that could arise from mail-in voting, at least in New York, will be determined by how much time county election officials have to prepare.
If the state requires them to send ballots to all state voters as it did in the primary, it will take more work.
“So those decisions, in my opinion, have to be made now, as opposed to October, whatever, when we’re right in the thick of things,” said Seymour.
Seymour wants people to feel confident in the people overseeing elections and encourages anyone with questions to reach out to their election officials.
Of note, a delayed election would not only affect the presidency, but also Congressional elections too.
North country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik does not support delaying the election and neither does her Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb.
Here’s a statement from Stefanik’s office:
“Congresswoman Stefanik does not support any delay of this November’s election. The Congresswoman is a cosponsor and longtime supporter of many legislative initiatives that seek to protect our elections, secure our election technologies, and safeguard voter data. She is a staunch advocate for measures to protect our elections from foreign interference, and continues to work with her colleagues in order to ensure that this upcoming election is safe and secure.”
The following is a statement from Cobb:
“The President doesn’t have the authority to delay the election. That would require an act of Congress. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important: 150,000 Americans have died, the economy is in shambles, and millions have lost their healthcare. It has been four months, and we still don’t have a consistent or realistic Federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes ensuring the safety and security of our election--our lawmakers should be focused on that response. Americans should be able to exercise their right to vote without the fear of getting sick. The Congresswoman has voted by mail six times in New York State. All New Yorkers should be afforded the same opportunity in November.”