Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Well, I took a little extra vacation there after the Fourth... And now I'm back for a quick drive-by, as I'm trying to write an article on this subject, but I just wanted to throw this out there.

Lots of people are saying that there needs to be some sort of policy in place in case elections are disrupted by a terrorist attack. I'm not sure I agree, but I'm not trying to be coy by not citing references - I have heard it from many people, not just in the press, and the idea seems to be gaining a lot of traction.

Currently, as I understand it, the power to set the date of an election technically lies with the U.S. Congress, though they always schedule the election for the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, by tradition. Thus the power to postpone an election that's already been scheduled would also rest with Congress.

The trouble there is twofold; one, a deliberative body is not going to be able to act fast enough in the event of an attack that occurs on election day itself. Two, again in the case of an election day attack, once the polling day arrives, Congress is in reality exceeding its authority if it tries to postpone the election, since the election day has already been set, and has arrived.

So in the event of an election-day attack, I concede there is a problem, though I'm not sure it can't be remedied with the current system, which would be that we would open and close the polls normally, to whatever extent possible, and then after the votes were tallied, the loser would need to make his case in court that the results were invalid and a revote was needed. This avenue has its flaws, as we saw in 2000, but in my view it is probably superior to any of the remedies proposed thus far.

However, if people are overwhelmingly of the mind that in the event of an election-day terrorist attack at a polling place, elections should be postponed, this authority probably does have to be Executive authority, and said authority would need to rest in the hands of one person - the President of the United States.

Clearly, though, it is not germane to give the sitting President the authority to postpone an election in which he is a candidate. The remedy here is simple, and makes a lot of sense - in the event that the President was forced to use his authority to postpone an election due to an inability to provide security at polling places on the scheduled election day, that President would withdraw his candidacy for a second term, and his party would nominate someone else.

Simple, huh? And really, it seems pretty clear that if a President cannot even provide Americans with sufficient security to allow them to vote in a Presidential election without fear of being blown up, shouldn't that President resign, anyway?


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