TALLAHASSEE — President Donald Trump’s suggestion Thursday morning that the presidential election should be delayed drew surprise from top Florida Republicans who said they expect voting to take place in November as guaranteed by federal law.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
The president’s suggestion is essentially impossible both logistically and legally. Some states begin voting in just a few short weeks, and only Congress has the power to change the election’s date.
At a news conference in Merritt Island to promote Florida’s aerospace industry, Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about the president’s comments. DeSantis, long a staunch ally of Trump’s, said he had not seen the president’s tweet. He sounded surprised when a reporter relayed the president’s idea.
“He asked for the election to be delayed?” DeSantis asked.
He then explained that Florida is working hard to ready itself for a Nov. 3 election.
“All of the supervisors of elections have been planning for this for a time, the Secretary of State’s been planning for this for a long time,” DeSantis said. “I think Florida will be ready to go.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said, emphatically, that Election Day won’t be delayed. “Since 1845, we’ve had an election on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 and we’re going to have one again this year,” he said.
A spokesperson for Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said Thursday the senator is not in favor of moving the 2020 election date, and Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Miami’s sole House Republican, tweeted a similar response..
Hopefully, DeSantis said, the coronavirus picture in the state will look different by the fall, and there won’t be a need for a radically different election.
The state reported a record-breaking 252 deaths from the virus Thursday, and another nearly 10,000 cases. Florida’s rate of positive cases sat at about 12 percent, suggesting the outbreak is far from contained.
Trump’s tweet asserted that an election held via universal mail-in ballots would be susceptible to massive voter fraud. Although fraud is more common with mail-in ballots than in-person voting, it’s still quite uncommon overall.
As DeSantis pointed out, Florida does not have universal vote-by-mail. Floridians who wish to mail in their ballots have to request the ability to so from their local supervisors of elections.
Trump’s tweet came on the same morning the country reported an economic contraction of 9.5 percent in the second quarter of 2020, an unprecedented recession.
The president trails the Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, in nearly every national poll.