WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s suggestion of postponing the November election drew condemnation from Republican officials in the states and on Capitol Hill as they tried to bat away questions their own party leader had raised about the legitimacy of that upcoming vote.
Trump on Thursday tweeted unsubstantiated allegations that the election would be “inaccurate and fraudulent” because of the widespread use of mail-in voting. It's a claim that’s been debunked by election security experts and the five states that already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots. He went on to suggest a delay in the election — something he cannot legally do on his own.
The date of the presidential election — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — is enshrined in federal law. Changing it now would require an act of Congress, including agreement from the Democratic-controlled House.
Top Republicans in Congress quickly rebuffed Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the election date is set in stone. The House GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, said the election “should go forward” as planned.
In the states, Republican leaders said officials are doing all they can to ensure voting systems are secure and reliable.
“Make no mistake: The election will happen in New Hampshire on Nov. 3. End of story,” said Gov. Chris Sununu, R-N.H. Like officials in other states, he said his own state's voting system is “secure, safe and reliable.”
BATTLEGROUND STATE REPUBLICANS SAY NO
GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — two frequent Trump defenders from states Democrats are contesting heavily this year — dismissed the idea outright.
“Nobody’s gonna change anything until we change the law,” Grassley said, noting that the election process is spelled out in the Constitution. “It doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says,” the senator said. "We are still are a country based on the rule of law and we want to follow the law.”
Rubio said this year’s election will be “credible” and “the same as it’s always been.”
“People should have confidence in it,” he added.
Wisconsin’s legislative leadership panned the idea. The Assembly speaker, Republican Robin Vos, said on Twitter that there should be no delay. “Elections need to happen for democracy to function,” Vos said.
Wisconsin Republicans had opposed a move by the Democratic governor to delay the state’s April presidential primary because of the pandemic.
The majority leader in the Assembly, Jim Steineke, who has broken with Trump in the past, tweeted “Hard NO” after Trump floated the idea of a delay. Steineke has also criticized Trump for not encouraging mail-in voting for Republicans.
Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, dismissed Trump's proposition and said the state is well prepared to move forward with the vote.
“There’s absolutely no reason to think this election cannot be held on that day," he said.
DeWine said it’s difficult for him to envision a situation “other than a natural disaster” or some other emergency in which a delay would be justified, and he emphasized that, in the U.S., “even if we don't like the results, whatever it is, we accept those results.”
“And that's one of the things that makes our country great,” he said.
RED-STATE REPUBLICANS BREAK WITH TRUMP
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he believes election fraud “is a serious problem,” but that "no, we should not delay the elections.”
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., tweeted: “Moving Election Day would seriously jeopardize the legitimacy of the election. Federal, state and local officials need to continue to work hard to ensure that Americans can vote safely, whether by voting early or on November 3.”
Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, said that the state has no intention of delaying the November election and that there’s been no evidence of tampering with mail-in ballots. Utah is one of the few states that primarily relied on mail-in voting before the coronavirus pandemic raised concerns about voting in person.
“It’s been a blessing for a lot of people to be able to get the ballot, review the ballot, study the issues and the candidates and make an informed decision,” Herbert said, adding that he saw no reason to postpone the elections and that such a move would be “foolish.”
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican, said his office opposes Trump’s suggestion and called on the Kansas delegation to Congress to do the same. More than 300,000 Kansans received advance by mail ballots for this year's primary elections, and the state expects there may be higher use of mail ballots for the general election.
“In Kansas, we have implemented measures to ensure the security and safety of the August and November elections,” he said in a statement. “Now is not the time to act in fear but to show the world we are courageous.”
Likewise, West Virginia's secretary of state, Republican Mac Warner, said his state is preparing to “provide a safe and secure election in November.”
Associated Press writers Dustin Weaver in Washington; Roxana Hegeman in Belle Plaine, Kan.; Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Anthony Izaguirre in Charleston, W.Va.; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis.; Holly Ramer in Hopkinton, N.H.; Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio; and Julie Eppolito in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.