The President of the United States’ overt suggestion Thursday to delay an election that polls show him losing was waved off by Massachusetts’s top elected leaders as a predictable, “bogus,” and unrealistic claim that isn’t worth the effort of getting angry over.
The early-morning tweet from President Trump claimed that with “universal” voting-by-mail — an option Massachusetts itself adopted this month — the 2020 election “will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump opined to his 84 million-plus Twitter followers.
No, said Massachusetts leaders.
“Look,” said Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican. “We’ve had elections in the midst of world wars. We’ve had elections in the midst of the Civil War. We’ve had elections many times in this country during terrible, awful circumstances.
“Elections need to happen, and there’s no reason why this one can’t happen when it’s supposed to happen,” he said, adding that passing Massachusetts’s vote-by-mail law for the 2020 elections was “the right thing to do” to protect voters’ health.
Trump’s suggestion marked an unprecedented proposal from an American president, and adds to the norm-breaking posture on which he’s built his presidency.
Trump does not have the constitutional power to make such a decision, and though the administration of elections is largely left to state and local governments, the date of the general election is spelled out in federal statutes.
Article II of the US Constitution also explicitly gives Congress authority to set the date of the election, and Senate Republican leaders immediately dismissed the idea Thursday.
There is also no evidence that mail-in voting is especially vulnerable to fraud, including within the five states — among them heavily Republican Utah — that implemented it universally prior to the pandemic.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s top elections official, told the Globe he’s less concerned with Trump’s “bogus” attempts to sow doubts about the election than he is about his administration making more subtle moves to “create problems around it.”
“The question is [whether] he’s going to interfere with any of the activities with vote by mail,” the Brighton Democrat said, noting the recent elevation of a major Trump and GOP donor to postmaster general.
“He’s doing these sort of sneaky little things,” Galvin said, pointing to Trump’s efforts to reshape the Census — including by pushing to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted or asking for extra funding to complete it “as quickly” as possible — as evidence of his attempt to reshape long-held democratic processes.
“I am more concerned about that kind of nibbling at the process than I am about an outright effort to prevent the election,” he said.
In his tweet, Trump also sought to draw a distinction between “universal” mail-in voting and absentee voting, which he said “is good” and is also a process Trump himself has used. But the expansion of voting by mail simply allows more voters to vote absentee, albeit without needing one of the previously required excuses.
“The election will be held,” Galvin said. “The things [Trump] says, there’s no point wasting energy on being outraged.”
Attorney General Maura Healey dismissed Trump’s criticisms, writing in a message on Twitter that “our elections will be safe, fair, and on time — because state [attorneys general] will fight for them.”
“We knew this was coming,” the Charlestown Democrat said of Trump’s comments. “This man clings to power.”
Christina Prignano and Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.