Washington plan to delay presidential election if terrorists strike
By David Usborne in New York
13 July 2004
A possible plan to postpone the US presidential elections this November in the event of a serious terrorist attack occurring on or just before voting day is being considered by officials in Washington.
Tom Ridge, the Secretary for Homeland Security, has asked legal experts in the US Justice Department to examine what changes may be needed in law to give the government the power to put off voting in case of disruption by al-Qa'ida or other terrorist groups.
The idea, first reported by Newsweek magazine, was floated several weeks ago by the US Election Assistance Commission. Members of the commission were spurred by events in Spain in March when terror attacks on the train network just before national polling helped oust the sitting government.
Only last week, Mr Ridge held a high-profile news conference to warn Americans that al-Qa'ida was allegedly plotting precisely to strike targets on US soil close to election day on 2 November. Presidential balloting is always held on the first Tuesday of November.
"We're trying to find out what happens with the presidential election if a state or some major urban area cannot have its election," said Gracia Hillman, the vice-chairman of the Election Assistance commission. "We feel the responsible thing is to have a plan."
On 11 September 2001, New York postponed primary elections scheduled for that day. But there is currently no federal agency with the authority to suspend voting nationally in the event of a terror attack.
Political reaction to the idea was mixed, however, especially among Democrat members on Capitol Hill.
"That would be the ultimate surrender to terrorism for a democracy," argued the Massachusetts Representative William Delahunt. "It just creates more fear, if you will. I can't imagine postponing an election like that," he said.
from The Independent: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=540416