Utah officials adamantly rejected a proposal floated Thursday by President Donald Trump to delay the presidential election.
Trump tweeted, “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???”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters, “We are going to have an election on time. It’s unthinkable that would not be the case.”
He added that voting by mail works well in Utah, one of just five states that, before this year, routinely held by-mail elections — and the only one of them that is solidly Republican.
“The great thing about it,” Romney said, “is that you have a paper document so that if you need to do a recount, you don’t have to worry about machines having been tampered with, so I’m a fan of voting by mail.”
Gov. Gary Herbert said he sees no need to postpone the election and that by-mail voting has worked in Utah.
“We’ve seen no evidence of anything untoward with mail-in ballots,” he said at a news conference. “We think, in fact, it’s been a blessing to a lot of people to be able to get the ballot, review the ballot, study the issues and candidates and make an informed decision” over several weeks.
So, the governor said, postponing the election “would be foolish.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the GOP nominee for governor and whose office oversees elections in the state, tweeted, “While no system is perfect, Utah is a model of showing vote-by-mail can be successful and secure. We are happy to advise and assist other states (and we have) to make sure there is no reason to delay a general election.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, issued a statement saying, “I do not support delaying the election. Congress sets the election date, not the president.”
In an interview with the BBC, Stewart said that while he does not support delaying the election, Trump had a legitimate point about all-by-mail voting being difficult to safely implement quickly in states where it has not been used.
“Can you ensure the accuracy of mail-in voting? Now in some states you can,” he told the BBC. “In my state in Utah, for example, we’ve been doing it for quite a while, but we’re a small state with a relatively small population. It’s harder to do on a national scale.”
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, tweeted, “The problem is not mail-in voting, the problem is ballot harvesting and mismanagement of election procedures.” He said Utah has a history of doing this well and should be looked to as a national example.
Curtis added, “I‘m hopeful that the election will be able to proceed as planned with measures ensuring that Americans can vote safely and securely — as we do in Utah. If circumstances arise, then Congress could consider delaying the election as is our constitutional duty.
Justin Lee, state elections director for Cox, said earlier this month that with voting by mail in Utah, “We have high turnout. We’ve had really minimal problems in the last few rounds.”
About the only fraud reported was some parents voting for their children on missions for Utah’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah also attacked Trump’s proposal.
“Trump and his congressional enablers are using low-level tactics like this tweet to sow confusion and create chaos. It won’t work,” said Chase Thomas, executive director of the alliance. “Trump knows that the clock is ticking on his time in the White House, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.”
Trump’s tweet came on a day of bad economic news and amid a dark political patch for his reelection effort.
The government reported Thursday that the U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9% annual rate in the April-June quarter, by far the worst quarterly plunge ever, as the coronavirus outbreak shut down businesses, threw tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7%.
Trump also trails in the polls, nationally and across battleground states, and some surveys even suggest traditionally Republican-leaning states like Texas could be in play. While Trump has come back before after trailing consistently in the polls throughout 2016, it’s raised the possibility that he could face a landslide loss if he doesn’t turn things around.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes. Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare.