Monday, July 12, 2004
MSNBC: Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security Mull Possible Election Day PostponementMSNBC has a rather surreal front-page story:
...sources tell NEWSWEEK, [Homeland Security chief Tom] Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the [2004 presidential] election were an attack to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission.What, worried that Al Qaeda might try to take away our treasured national freedoms? Let's beat them to it, and do it ourselves. Here's another scenario: an alternate terrorist strategy would be to strike around the time of January's inaguration if Kerry is elected, to take advantage of the the new administration's inexperience. So, how exactly could a postponement, unless taken proactively, rather than after an attack took place, preserve the democratic process?
Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election." Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to make such a call.
Homeland officials say that as drastic as such proposals sound, they are taking them seriously—along with other possible contingency plans in the event of an election-eve or Election Day attack. "We are reviewing the issue to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election," says Brian Roehrkasse, a Homeland spokesman.
Do we really know how the people would vote in the event of an Election Day terror strike? Would they suddenly change party allegiances? Somehow, I think an Al Qaeda strike would be counterproductive in unseating George W. Bush. Unlike Spain, I don't think American voters would suddenly galvanize en masse to vote out the current administration following a terrorist attack...I even think Bush as the incumbent might gain clear electoral advantage if, heaven forbid, this attack took place. It also prompts the question of exactly how long Election Day could be delayed. A few weeks? A few months? A year? A few years? Until we win the War on Terror?
Too many questions, but not enough answers.
More on the developing story on Newsday, The Financial Times, and CNN.