July 12, 2004
Election Law and Terrorism; Thoughts on Postponement of the Election for President in the Event of a Terrorist Strike
A number of blog readers (some with alarm) have sent me a link to this Newsweek report, which begins: "American counter-terrorism officials, citing what they call 'alarming' intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned."
Far from seeing this as some conspiracy to keep George Bush in power (as some blog readers have suggested to me), I think this is a good prudential step to take. A presidential election can be disrupted in a number of ways, and having voting take place on different dates across the country presents some serious fairness problems (you may recall this issue arose after the some called for a revote following the use of the notorious butterfly ballot in Palm Beach, Fla. last election).
As with all election law controversies, better to have rules set up in advance, so that no one can jockey for partisan advantage in the case of a hole in the rules after (part) of the election has taken place.
By the way, John Fortier and Norm Ornstein will have an article on presidential elections and terrorism (with a host of sensible suggestions for reform) in the October issue of the Election Law Journal.
UPDATE: Jack Balkin here notes some important issues regarding the respective roles of Congress, the executive branch, and the states in rescheduling an election in the event of a national emergency.