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Biden backs mail vote, suggests Trump will try to postpone election

Joe Biden speaks to reporters at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on March 10.
(Associated Press)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling on Congress to provide enough money for every state to allow voters to cast a ballot by mail this November amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden blasted President Trump for working to block emergency funding for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which would handle tens of millions of ballots this fall. Biden, speaking during an online fundraiser Thursday night, said it’s evidence that Trump already is trying to “undermine” the election and make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

“We have to make it easier for everybody to be able to vote, particularly if we are still basically in the kind of lockdown circumstances we are in now,” Biden told about 650 donors. “But that takes a lot of money, and it’s going to require us to provide money for states and insist they provide mail-in ballots.”

These are some of the unusual new scenes across the Southland during the coronavirus outbreak.

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It’s perhaps Biden’s most explicit call for a national mail election since COVID-19 upended the 2020 campaign and every aspect of American life. The former vice president doesn’t propose eliminating in-person voting. But he said state and local officials must do more to make polling locations conform to public health protocols, while steering voters toward other options.

Biden chided Trump for denigrating mail balloting and for opposing direct aid for the Postal Service. Trump, who voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary last month, recently said with no evidence that he believes mail balloting allows voters to “cheat.” Separately, the administration maneuvered to ensure that the Postal Service got no direct assistance in the $2-trillion coronavirus aid package.

“He’s already trying to undermine the election with false claims of voter fraud and threatening to block essential COVID assistance if any extra funds go to the U.S. Postal Service,” Biden said. “What in God’s name was that about other than trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all that he can to make it very hard for people to vote?”

It may not be safe to go to the polls in November. There is still time for states to switch to a mail-in ballot nationwide, but not much, and some states continue to resist.

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Biden’s remarks suggested that the Postal Service had already received some taxpayer funds. It has not. Nonetheless, Biden described Trump’s approach as “un-American” and said “that’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.”

Going further, Biden predicted without evidence that Trump will attempt to postpone the election altogether.

“Between he and the Russians, there’s going to be an attempt to interfere,” Biden said. “This president, mark my words, I think he’s going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with a rationale why it can’t be held.”
It would be virtually impossible for Trump to succeed with such a move. Congress sets the election day statutorily, and the Democratic-controlled House would never agree to move it back. Any executive order moving the election would meet a certain constitutional challenge in court. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution sets Jan. 20 as Inauguration Day.

The November election date is set by law, and the president can’t postpone it or extend his term. But there are a lot of other questions about conducting an election in the midst of a pandemic.

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