President Trump says it could take months to determine the November election outcome.
“Now, because of the China virus, we’re supposed to stay home, send millions of ballots all over the country. Millions and millions,” Trump said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” released Tuesday. “You know, you could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of Nov. 3. This election could be decided two months later.”
Chaos would ensue if the election is not called quickly, Trump said. “Lots of things will happen during that period of time, especially when you have tight margins. Lots of things can happen. There’s never been anything like this.”
Trump said his campaign is currently exploring legal action to “end” mail-in voting. “You look at some of the corruption having to do with universal, mail-in voting. Absentee voting is OK if you have to apply, you have to go through a process,” Trump said. “There is no way you can go through a mail-in vote without massive cheating.”
And Trump noted that “somebody got a ballot for a dog.”
It’s unclear what Trump was referring to, but one Atlanta family recently found a voter registration application in their mailbox addressed to Cody Tims — their cat, which died 12 years ago.
Axios fact-checked Trump’s claims and found his warning problematic. Citing statistics from the Brennan Center, Axios notes that 1 in 4 Americans have used mail-in voting in the last three federal elections and “fraud has been rare.” Oregon, which votes primarily by mail, has documented “only about a dozen cases of fraud out of more than 100 million ballots since 2000,” the outlet says.
One New York Times columnist suggested this week that the election’s outcome could be up in the air until Thanksgiving.
“Picture this Thanksgiving: turkey, football (maybe), tenser-than-usual interactions with relatives. And perhaps a new tradition: finding out who actually won the presidential election,” Ben Smith wrote.
The coronavirus crisis means that states like Pennsylvania may be counting mail-in ballots for weeks, while President Trump tweets false allegations about fraud. And the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news and some version of that maddening needle on The New York Times website.
Election analysts, TV hosts, network chiefs, and executives of social media platforms display “blithe confidence” that they’ll handle the election just fine, but Smith wrote there’s “near panic among some of the people paying the closest attention.”
Smith notes that in the 2018 midterms, only 60% of the votes were cast in-person Election Day and we saw a bunch of “coverage misfires” as a result, most notably news commentators lamenting that the much-hyped “blue wave” didn’t fully arrive. It was only weeks later when the results from states like California came in that the full results were known. Things will likely be worse this year, as we’re expecting to see an even lower percentage of in-person votes, thus even longer delays.