Government & Politics

Vermont leaders reject Trump suggestion to delay November election

Vermont's congressional delegation, governor and secretary of state condemned the idea of delaying the November elections. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested the 2020 election should be postponed, prompting swift condemnation from Vermont leaders.

Vermont officials said the president does not have the authority to change the date of the election, which is set by the Constitution. They also challenged Trump’s assertions that expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic would lead to increased voter fraud — a claim he has repeated in recent months and is not backed by evidence.

“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 wrote in a statement on Twitter.

The president’s suggestion of delaying the election was rejected by political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Vermont’s congressional delegation, Secretary of State Jim Condos and Gov. Phil Scott.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said in an interview that the president’s statement is “bizarre, erratic and authoritarian.” Trump is putting forward the idea as Covid-19 cases are rising nationwide and amid dire economic news, Welch said.

“It’s about voter suppression, it’s about advanced delegitimization of the election, and it’s about creating conspiracy theories that would justify his refusal to accept the verdict of an election,” Welch said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote on Twitter that Trump “is attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the election—and indeed our democracy—by promoting an utterly baseless, hypocritical, and dangerous conspiracy theory.”

He called on GOP leaders and fellow Democrats to condemn the president’s “selfish recklessness.”

Former 2020 presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote on Twitter that the election would not be delayed.

“The American people are sick and tired of your authoritarianism, your lies, your racism. On November 3, 2020 democracy will prevail and your disastrous presidency will end. Bye-bye,” Sanders wrote.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, who oversees Vermont’s election system, said the president does not have the authority to postpone election day, which is set by the U.S. Constitution. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

Condos said there is no evidence that absentee voting is linked to increased fraud.

“A lot of times it's just rhetoric and I think it's unfortunate,” Condos said. “It acts as a voter suppression method.”

Condos is confident in the ability of Vermont’s election systems to ensure the integrity of the election, and said he does not see any reason to postpone the election.

In Vermont, postcards were sent to all voters offering the option of requesting a mail-in ballot. So far, more than 137,000 Vermonters have requested a mail-in ballot, and 50,000 have already cast their ballot remotely in the upcoming Aug. 11 primary, according to Condos.

For the general election, the state will send ballots to all registered voters. Then, Condos said, people will have the option to mail in their ballots, drop them at the town clerk’s office during the early voting period, or show up at the polls on Nov. 3.

Gov. Phil Scott also opposed the president’s suggestion.

“The governor does not support delaying our elections, which are the cornerstone of our democracy and the fact is, COVID-19 is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future,” Scott’s spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said in an email.

Kelley said that Scott is relying on Condos’ “assurances that the mail-in voting system in Vermont is sound.”

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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