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Whitmer slaps Trump's suggestion to 'delay' November election

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer criticized President Donald Trump's suggestion Thursday morning that the U.S. postpone the 2020 election. 

Trump, in his opposition to mail-in voting, is more concerned with "his chances in the 2020 election" than preventing the further spread of the coronavirus, Whitmer said in a Thursday statement.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Donald Trump

"If we could hold an election in 1864 in the midst of a Civil War threatening to tear our country apart, we can and will hold one in 2020," Whitmer said  "It’s time for the president to get his priorities straight and work with Congress on a bipartisan recovery package that protects our families, front-line workers, and small business owners.” 

Whitmer is a co-chair for Vice President Joe Biden's Democratic presidential campaign and has been vetted to be his running mate. Biden is expected to make his vice presidential selection next week.

Shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday, Trump posted a tweet floating the idea that the United States should "delay" the election rather than allow mail-in voting during the pandemic. 

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

The dates of federal elections are dictated by federal law and would require an act of Congress to make changes. Republicans control the Senate, while Democrats lead the House.

Trump told reporters Thursday night that he was in favor of absentee voting, which require an individual to fill out an application, but not of an unsolicited mass mailing of ballots to all voters. He maintained the mass mailings could result in discarded ballots and confusion. 

"I want to have the result of the election," Trump said. "I don’t want to be waiting around for weeks or months.”

The suggestion of a delayed election, while practically impossible, will do more to stir fears about the integrity of the election than it will to accomplish any sort of date change for the November election, said Bill Ballenger, a former GOP state lawmaker and longtime Michigan political observer. 

"The way Trump is handling this, as usual, is not very adept," Ballenger said. "All this is going to do is just provoke another explosion of controversy, and this is going to go on for days and weeks.”

Asked about Trump’s tweet Thursday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James said his focus is on campaigning for every vote and supporting the right to vote of everyone who is legally able to do so.

“I am counting on the election being on Nov. 3,” said James, a businessman from Farmington Hills.

His opponent, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, told a reporter for Sinclair Broadcast Group that Trump can't delay the election and was trying to direct attention away from what's happening in the country: a major health and economic crisis.

"I would hope that the president would be focused on dealing with the crisis at hand instead of tweeting about things that are basically nonsense," Peters added.

Members of Michigan's U.S. House delegation also weren't shy in pushing back at the suggestion on social media.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, said he planned to drop off his absentee ballot Thursday and felt "safe and secure doing so."

"No reason to mess with our election date," Mitchell said in a tweet. "States must ensure procedures to monitor accuracy with federal oversight."

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, said the comment reinforced rumors that Trump may seek "to disrupt our free & fair elections, or a transition in power."

"It sent a shiver down my spine, as I hope it does all of my colleagues of both parties," Slotkin said in a tweet. 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit said the election would proceed on Nov. 3 regardless of the president's tweet. 

"We aren't going to delay an election just because this impeached President's poll numbers are falling," Tlaib said in a tweet. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said the president's comments were an attempt to peddle lies in an attempt to delay the election and "keep himself in power."

"Don’t let it happen," Kildee said in a tweet. "Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President's lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

Detroit News Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed.