As some of you know the suspending of elections in the event of a terrorist was considered by the administration (as well as Soaries). This idea was rejected, but we should remember how fragile this grand experiment of ours is. Check out this Op/ed piece, and maybe check out a few of the links I provided at the bottom.
A Bad Idea, Rejected
Published: July 17, 2004
In 1864, with the Civil War raging, millions of Americans voted in the presidential election and, as Carl Sandburg wrote, the balloting went on "in quiet and good order." So it was troubling to hear reports this week that the Bush administration and a federal elections body were talking about whether this year's election could be postponed in the event of a terrorist attack. Fortunately, elected officials from both parties quickly denounced the idea, and the administration said a postponement would not happen. At least raising the issue now allowed the nation to consider it in a moment of calm, and reject it.
DeForest Soaries Jr., the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, set off a firestorm by writing to the Homeland Security Department to express concern that no agency is authorized to cancel or reschedule federal elections. The Homeland Security Department was reported to have asked the Justice Department to consider what steps would need to be taken.
However well-meaning they may have been, the inquiries were greeted with cynicism. Calling off elections, particularly when the ruling power is doing the calling off, is the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships. Even in this country, an attack can provide an opportunity for leaders to seek extralegal powers. New Yorkers still remember that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proposing staying on after his term ended.
The talk of postponing elections sent many Americans back to the Constitution, which delegates to Congress the timing of presidential elections. Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, made it clear that neither the president nor the Election Assistance Commission could override this provision. On CNN, Condoleezza Rice promised that "no one is thinking of postponing the elections." And Mr. Soaries then released his own statement that there are "no circumstances that could justify the postponement or cancellation of a presidential election."
It is good that the issue was raised now and resolved. As was clear in Florida in the 2000 election, the worst time to debate the rules of an election is in the midst of a highly disputed one because each party invariably supports the interpretation that enhances its chance of winning.
This week's controversy could also prompt Congress to focus on more practical questions about how to respond if terrorists try to interfere with the voting. The failure of the electrical grid, along the lines of last summer's widespread blackout, could disrupt voting in a large number of states. Violence at polling places, which is not uncommon in some countries, could make people afraid to vote.
Even though such possibilities may be unlikely, Congress should study the broad issue of election interference. To ensure that everyone has a chance to vote, it should consider giving courts the express authority to extend polling hours. It should also consider directing local election officials to have an ample supply of paper ballots as a backup. Whatever rules may be adopted, they should provide for more voting, not less.
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