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Monday, July 12, 2004

Election Planning, Take Three

I just finished reading way too many comments on an Atrios post about the discussion of postponing the election in the event of a terrorist attack. The vast majority of the comments there seemed to believe that even considering the issue was the absolute worst thing the Bushies have done yet. One guy, Ted Smith, who appears to be on the right side of the political spectrum, raised pretty much the same points that I raised (and Billmon as well). That main point being--isn't it better to consider the possibilities and plan for them now, rather than wait for the recriminations and lawsuits afterwards? I mean, if the Bushies are planning to use a terror attack to steal the election, they'd want those plans buried deeper than Cheney's energy task force records.

But the very FLEXIBLE Atrios commenters were ready to shoot down any and every argument that Ted Smith raised, no matter how reasonable. He described elections in the past (including a primary election on September 11, 2001 in New York) that were postponed with no obvious negative consequences. One after another, the commenters indicated that they'd get to the polls as long as they could crawl there, unconcerned apparently about fellow voters who might be unable to crawl to a polling place that might not be there (or more likely would not have power for its electronic voting machines). Personally, I think that if the information about the "felon" list in Florida had been known the day before the election, it would have been completely proper to delay the election, at least in Florida, until that was resolved. And if we have a 24-hour blackout here in Michigan on election day like the one we had last summer, one that incidentally hit mainly the Democratic stronghold areas of southeast Michigan while leaving the rest of the state unaffected, it could seriously affect the vote here and quite likely would turn this blue state red.

A few of the commenters went so far as to say that having guidelines would be an invitation to terrorists. I suggest that NOT having guidelines is a gold-plated invitation to the Bushies to do whatever the Cheney they want. I agree with Billmon that it's hard to see anybody we could trust to make the final call on postponing an election. But for me, the one thing that's scarier now than talking about having the election postponed is NOT talking about it. DeForest Soaries may be a Republican Baptist Minister who lost an election a couple of years ago and was appointed by Bush to a strange new commission, but he is doing democracy a favor by raising this issue, and I'm guessing that the people who appointed him are not happy about him raising it now. Trying to stifle this discussion plays right into Bush's hands.

FWIW--Here's a simple guideline that I would suggest: If any eligible voter is unable to get to the polling place on election day for any reason beyond his or her control, he or she is given a chance to vote as soon as it is possible, and that vote will be counted, even if it changes the outcome of an already-certified election. This would apply for voters who are injured or otherwise blocked by terrorist attacks, man-made or natural disasters, or, for example, being improperly placed on a list of felons. If the event materially affects the choices available to the voters (for example, a candidate is killed), the entire election can and should be rescheduled (One of the comments on Atrios said there were some 100,000 write-in votes for Wellstone in 2002, and these voters were not allowed a chance to vote again after Wellstone died).