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Perry, Smucker: No change to presidential election schedule

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Republican incumbent candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker greet each other during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence who rallied at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Reps. Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker say November's presidential election should stay put after President Donald Trump on Thursday floated a delay after claiming widespread mail-in voting would result in fraud.

While Perry, R-Carroll Township, and Smucker, R-Lancaster, both said they want to ensure election integrity, the remarks signify a break from the president, who suggested that a delay may be in order because universal mail-in voting would lead to the "most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history."

Regardless, Trump would have no say in pushing back the election, as it would require congressional approval, experts quickly noted.

“Since 1788, through wars and pandemics, the United States has held federal elections on time," Perry said. "If the integrity of the new mail-in voting process is assured, the November 2020 elections should be no different.”

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Voting by mail has come into the spotlight as a safer alternative to voting at the polls amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which, as of Friday, had been linked to the deaths of more than 152,000 Americans.

Some states, such as Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon, already hold all-mail elections.

Trump, on the other hand, has repeated unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots lead to voter fraud, which, in turn, would benefit Democrats and that party's presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden. 

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump tweeted. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also walked back the president's remarks on CBS' "Face the Nation," claiming the president has not considered delaying the election and that it will still be held on Nov. 3.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said he, too, doesn't support pushing back the election. While Toomey doesn't take issue with mail-in voting, "universally mailing ballots to people who don’t request them is a horrible idea and would likely lead to voter fraud,” he said.

Trump's assertion that voter fraud would be a direct consequence of universal mail-in voting is unfounded when looking at the history of states already using the system, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

An April study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research also debunked the claim that either party would reap notable benefits from an increase in mail-in voting.

The public also seems to disagree, as 70% of Americans favor universal access to voting by mail, according to an April Pew Research Center poll.

In a rare move, GOP leaders in both congressional chambers quickly broke with Trump over his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quickly dismissed the idea.

Although Smucker said it is imperative that elections are secure, he echoed his party leadership's sentiments.

"Congress establishes the date of the election and I don’t see any scenario where the election would not be held on November 3rd," Smucker said in a statement.

Trump's latest suggestion that the coming election would be "fraudulent" came on the same day reports were released showing the U.S. experienced a record-breaking 9.5% decrease in gross domestic product in the second quarter.

Paired with an 11.1% unemployment rate as of June and millions of unemployment claims — as well as mounting criticisms of how Trump has handled the pandemic — the president's poll numbers have sunk.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey meets with The York Dispatch staff Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said the president's push for an election delay was an attempt to distract from Thursday's GDP report, a perspective taken by many Democrats.

"Despite his autocratic inclinations, the President lacks the power to unilaterally change the date of the election," Casey said in a statement. "But we should not let President Trump's autocratic ramblings distract us from the public health and economic crises facing our Nation."

Trump’s election campaign is now in the midst of legal action against Pennsylvania over mail-in voting, specifically during the June 2 primary election.

The campaign in June filed a lawsuit against state Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and all 67 county election boards over the state's mail-in ballot measures, alleging some of the state's voting practices were unconstitutional.

Specifically, Trump wants to require counties to reject ballots that arrive without the supplied secrecy envelope and limit in-person ballot delivery. 

The lawsuit is yet to be resolved.

Pennsylvania's first go at universal mail-in voting came in this year's primary. It was the first time voters could stay away from the polls without naming a specific reason since Gov. Tom Wolf signed Pennsylvania's universal mail-in ballot law, known as Act 77, late last year. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.