Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, an ally of Donald Trump, on Thursday rejected the president’s statement floating the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“Our country has voted in turbulent times before, including a Civil War, two World Wars, and a global pandemic,” Gardner said in a written statement provided to The Colorado Sun. “Congress has the power to set the election date. Americans are going to vote on November 3rd, come hell or high water.”
The date of the presidential election — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change, including agreement from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay in the end of Trump’s term — noon on Jan. 20, 2021.
Simply put: Trump cannot shift the date of the election.
Still, the mere suggestion of the delay was extraordinary in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power, including during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II.
Trump tweeted Thursday: “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. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Trump’s tweet came on a day of bad economic news and amid a dark political patch for his reelection effort, both driven in part by a nationwide resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Colorado’s Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, was even more forceful in responding to Trump’s election-delay suggestion. He called it “so dangerous.”
“Americans and elected officials at every level – from every party – must reject this unprecedented threat to our democracy and stand up for the integrity of our elections,” Bennet said in a tweet.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, accused Trump of “lying to suppress the vote.”
Gardner is facing a difficult reelection bid in November against former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has blasted the incumbent for his ties to Trump.
Gardner doesn’t often move quickly to condemn the president’s actions and comments, especially those made on Twitter, making Thursday’s pushback notable. The senator has endorsed Trump’s 2020 reelection bid after refusing to vote for him in 2016.
A number of other top Republicans, including Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, rejected Trump’s suggestion on Thursday.
Before the senator issued his statement, Hickenlooper said Gardner’s “silence is complicity as the president tries to undermine our democracy.”
Gardner has also split with Trump on the president’s views on mail-in voting.
Trump has said mail-in voting is rife with fraud and dangerous. “Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
Gardner says mail-in voting “works great for Colorado.”
“I don’t think anything has proven wrong,” Gardner said in a television interview. “… I think it’s actually turned out very well for Colorado.”
Still, Gardner has opposed a federal mandate that all states offer universal mail-in voting, as Colorado does.
“I don’t want Washington, D.C., to be in charge of state’s elections,” he said in the TV interview.
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Hickenlooper has blasted Gardner for not being more supportive of the proposal to make universal mail-in voting required by states.
“Sen. Gardner is so scared of Donald Trump, he can’t even bring himself to say his name when the President is subverting every notion of democracy,” Hickenlooper said in written statement to The Sun on Thursday. “And Sen. Gardner himself refuses to support universal vote by mail and ensure we have safe elections this November.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes. Five states, including Colorado, already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, and they say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote. Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.
One Republican governor, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, quickly shot down Trump’s idea: “Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story. Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different.”
Hogan Gidley, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, pointed to the delays in counting votes in New York’s primary. “The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting. They are using coronavirus as their means to try to institute universal mail-in voting, which means sending every registered voter a ballot whether they asked for one or not. “
Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on November’s election and the expected surge in mail-in and absentee voting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And Trump has called remote voting options the “biggest risk” to his reelection. His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.
In a “Fox News Sunday” interview just weeks ago, Trump refused to commit to accept the results of the upcoming election, echoing a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote.
“I have to see. Look … I have to see,” Trump told Fox News moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview. “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either.”
Trump and many members of his administration have previously availed themselves of absentee voting, but Trump has sought to differentiate that from a growing push by states to mail all registered voters either ballots or absentee request forms.
Most states are still finalizing their plans for November, although California has announced plans to send ballots to all registered voters for the fall election along with having in-person voting options available. A small number of states also sent ballots to voters during the primaries, but most states are not expected to do so in November. Instead, voters will have to request an absentee ballot if they want to vote at home.
Voters and public health officials have expressed concerns about the potential dangers for spreading the virus during in-person voting, and states have reported difficulty filling poll worker positions given the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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