President Donald Trump sought to sow more public doubt in the November election on Friday, repeating unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud, as he lags behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden in polls.
Trump, in a speech Friday, said mail-in voting “will be a tremendous embarrassment for our country, it will go on forever and you will never know who won. This is a very serious problem and something has to be done about it.”
Five states already hold elections almost entirely by mail, including Republican-dominated Utah, without serious episodes of fraud. For the 2020 election, many more states are moving rapidly to expand mail-in voting or no-excuse absentee voting so that voters don’t have to risk coronavirus infection by going to polling stations in person.
Biden is ahead by about 7.4 percentage points in the polling average compiled by RealClearPolitics. That lead hasn’t wavered much in months. An average calculated by FiveThirtyEight has Biden leading by 8.6 percentage points.
Trump described the nation as unready for the volume of mail-in ballots expected by November, but Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told senators in a hearing earlier Friday that the Postal Service is prepared.
“The American people can feel comfortable that the Postal Service will deliver on this election,” DeJoy told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. But Trump claimed without citing examples that states rushing to expand mail-in voting aren’t adopting sufficient safeguards against fraud.
During the hearing, Republican Senator Rick Scott, typically a Trump ally, added doubt to the president’s claim. “In Florida, we’ve had vote-by-mail for a long time and it’s worked really well,” Scott said.
Trump’s remarks, to a secretive conservative group called the Council on National Policy, came the day after former Vice President Joe Biden called Trump a failed president in a prime-time speech accepting the Democratic nomination. During the Democratic National Convention, many speakers urged viewers to vote early or to make a plan to vote on Election Day, with some — including the party’s vice president nominee, California Senator Kamala Harris, warning Republicans were trying to suppress turnout.
“People are getting ballots who had no intention of voting, that maybe shouldn’t be voting,” Trump said, alleging without substantiation that some Americans may be able to cast multiple ballots. He predicted that the U.S. coronavirus outbreak will sufficiently wane by November to allow for safe, in-person voting.
“It’s largely, really, in good shape,” he said. “We’ve done a great job, we have not been recognized for what we’ve done. In 2.5 months from now we’ll be in good shape. Potentially really good shape.”
The U.S. has suffered more than 5.7 million cases of Covid-19 and reported more than 45,000 new cases on Thursday.
“They all think I’m trying to steal the election,” Trump said. “Just the opposite. I want fair results.”