PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State officials tell Eyewitness News they’re baffled by President Donald Trump’s suggestion to delay the upcoming election.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said very firmly that the presidential election will go on as planned this November because Trump does not have the authority to delay it, even during a global pandemic.
“Even through the Civil War, even through all the World Wars, we have always held our elections, and so I can very much tell you we will have an election on Nov. 3,” Gorbea said.
Trump floated the idea in a tweet Thursday, saying he was concerned about mail ballot voter fraud and that it would be “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT election in history.”
“I don’t want to delay, I want to have the election, but I also don’t want to have wait three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything,” Trump told reporters during a briefing Thursday.
John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island echoed Gorbea, saying only Congress has the power to delay an election, not the president.
“The president is trying to make a distinction that doesn’t exist, which is that absentee ballots are somehow legitimate, but mail ballots are somehow not legitimate,” Marion said. “There is no distinction between the two.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuffed Trump’s idea to delay the election, saying the date is “set in stone.”
Honorary chair of the Rhode Island Trump campaign Jerry Zarrella says Trump’s suggestion was misinterpreted and he did not actually want to delay the election.
“He knows only Congress can do it, but I think he wants to bring American people to the attention on what probably can happen,” Zarrella said.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha also weighed in, saying in a statement, “Not withstanding the president’s comments, I am confident November’s election will go forward as scheduled. If there is any legal action required, my office will take it.”
Mail-in ballots are not the only way Rhode Islanders can vote this fall. Gorbea said you can vote early in-person, by mail or in-person at the polls on Election Day.