AUGUSTA, Maine — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the November election could be delayed due to overstated concerns of voter fraud was dismissed on Thursday by top Maine officials including Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who called the musing “reckless.”
The Republican president has no power to delay the Nov. 3 presidential election. Elections are managed by states and federal law sets presidential elections on the first Tuesday of November in an 1845 law. It would require an act of Congress and there is little to no political will to do so.
On Thursday, the idea was floated by Trump in a tweet and then rejected out of hand by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who told a reporter in his home state that the date is set in stone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, responded by citing the constitutional provision that allows Congress to set the date for Election Day.
“President Trump does not have the authority to delay the November election, and I do not believe that Congress should do so,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who did not endorse Trump in 2016 but has not said whether she will vote for him in 2020.
Collins’ Democratic opponent in her nationally targeted 2020 race, House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, said in a tweet that it was clear Trump has not “learned his lesson” in a reference to a Collins quote after she voted to acquit Trump of impeachment charges in February.
Dunlap, a Democrat, noted that the president has no authority over elections and said it was “reckless and irresponsible to use that bully pulpit to sow doubt” among his supporters.
“Today’s tweet, it’s a nonstarter,” he said. “He has no authority over the matter, but he’s talking to his base.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the Constitution gives the right to set elections to Congress and not the president because “the Founders feared a moment exactly like this one.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, said Congress must “make these decisions based only on the best interest of the public” and not for “any one individual,” while Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, said Trump wants Americans to “focus on his tweets instead of his failure to contain a deadly virus.”
A spokesperson for former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon, the Republican nominee to face U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District, did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Trump’s suggestion to delay the election is linked to false claims that mail-in voting opens elections to large amounts of voter fraud. While there are generally more fraud cases with mail-in ballot relative to in-person voting, they are negligible. The Brookings Institution found 29 cases of fraudulent attempted mail-in votes over years in three states, all on the individual level.
Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — conduct elections fully by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maine is among another tier of 29 states that allow voters to request an absentee ballot without citing a reason.
In Maine’s June 15 primaries, 39 percent of voters cast absentee ballots after a coordinated push from state, city and town officials amid the pandemic, according to Dunlap’s office. Maine typically has a high share of absentees. During the 2016 election, 32 percent voted that way.
Correction: An earlier version of this story assigned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to the wrong party. She is a Democrat.