Thursday morning, President Donald J. Trump sent a tweet suggesting that the date of this year’s presidential election should be delayed “until people can properly, securely and safely vote.”
This marks the first time in American history that a president has publicly suggested delaying an election. Through war or plague, elections have always been held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November.
The president’s remarks were flatly rejected by both parties in Congress, including Republican Party leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip Sen. John R. Thune, R-S.D.
On Friday, Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, added her name to the ranks of Republicans who have all agreed: the election must go on as planned.
“Congresswoman Stefanik does not support any delay of this November’s election,” her campaign said in an emailed statement. “The Congresswoman is a cosponsor and longtime supporter of many legislative initiatives that seek to protect our elections, secure our election technologies, and safeguard voter data. She is a staunch advocate for measures to protect our elections from foreign interference, and continues to work with her colleagues in order to ensure that this upcoming election is safe and secure.”
Tedra Cobb, the Democratic candidate for the NY-21 House seat, responded to the president’s tweets on Thursday evening, and pointed out that the president lacks the authority to change the date of the general election; only Congress may do that.
Ms. Cobb called focus back to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that lawmakers should improve their response to the pandemic and ensure that November’s election can continue in a safe manner.
“Let’s not lose sight of what’s important: 150,000 Americans have died, the economy is in shambles, and millions have lost their healthcare,” she said in a statement. “It has been four months, and we still don’t have a consistent or realistic Federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes ensuring the safety and security of our election – our lawmakers should be focused on that response.”
Ms. Cobb went on to call for the expansion of mail-in voting. She claimed that Rep. Stefanik has voted by mail six times in New York state, and that all New Yorkers should be able to do the same come November.
This year, election law in New York state was amended to allow for voters to apply for absentee ballots without any reason. The law also requires that applications for absentee ballots be automatically sent well in advance of the election. Typically, voters must be ill, out of the area, or otherwise unable to physically attend a polling site on election day in order to qualify for absentee ballots. The laws were adjusted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it appears that the adjustments will stay in place until the November election.
Thursday night, Rep. Stefanik held a telephone town hall event and answered a few questions regarding voting in November. She spoke in support of absentee ballots, but said that she did not support a completely mail-based election.
“Absentee ballots, absolutely,” Rep. Stefanik said in answer to a question from a woman calling from Ogdensburg. “I myself have voted absentee in the past, and there is a process where individuals apply for absentee ballots, and we actually have expanded absentee ballots in New York state, that’s something that I would support.”
The representative also mentioned lawsuits regarding elections in New York that are still not settled.
A statement with more detail sent via email from Rep. Stefanik’s office points out the Democratic primary race between Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel in the NY-12 district. That race still has not had a certified winner, more than a month after the election. As Rep. Stefanik’s office pointed out, there is now a lawsuit pending between Mr. Patel and the state Board of Elections and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
That election was conducted in the same manner as other New York state elections were on June 23, where absentee ballot applications were sent out to all registered voters, and those who returned the applications were mailed absentee ballots. Those who did not vote by absentee ballot could vote in person at their local precincts, with social distancing regulations in effect. Rep. Stefanik has said she supports this system, so it’s unclear why she brought it up as a point against votes by mail.
“I support expanded absentee ballots, but that is different from the automatic mailed out ballots, because there is not a process the way there is with the absentee application,” Rep. Stefanik said during Thursday’s town hall.
The representative also answered a question from a man in Stillwater, who said that he and his wife did not receive absentee ballots for their local school board elections. He said he would like to see mail-in ballots done away with, because of his experience with the process.
“My focus is on safe, secure elections and we have seen numerous instances over the past couple months, whether it was school board elections or some of these congressional primaries, that there have been lots of problems with the automatically mailed-out ballots,” Rep. Stefanik said. “Again, absentees, that is a workable system that our BOEs have experience with, but I’ve been very concerned with Governor Cuomo’s overreach in rewriting the rules when it comes to the elections process, and not working on a bipartisan basis to make sure we have safe and secure elections.”