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Friday, July 02, 2004

Planning for November

I've seen several lefty bloggers and listserv e-mailers react with knowing horror to this story:
The government needs to establish guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections if terrorists strike the United States again, says the chairman of a new federal voting commission.

Such guidelines do not currently exist, said DeForest B. Soaries, head of the voting panel.
Given what happened in 2000, concerns that Bush and the Repugs might use a terrorist attack as an excuse to cancel the election are well founded, and the lefties I noted before saw this story as a scary step in that direction. But I would suggest that Mr. Soaries is doing us a great service by bringing it up now, forcing the Bushies to publicly address the issue. This part of the article I hadn't seen quoted much:
Soaries was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission last year by President Bush. Soaries said he wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in April to raise the concerns.

"I am still awaiting their response," he said. "Thus far we have not begun any meaningful discussion." Spokesmen for Rice and Ridge did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Soaries noted that Sept. 11, 2001, fell on Election Day in New York City -- and he said officials there had no rules to follow in making the decision to cancel the election and hold it later.

Events in Spain, where a terrorist attack shortly before the March election possibly influenced its outcome, show the need for a process to deal with terrorists threatening or interrupting the Nov. 2 presidential election in America, he said.

"Look at the possibilities. If the federal government were to cancel an election or suspend an election, it has tremendous political implications. If the federal government chose not to suspend an election it has political implications," said Soaries, a Republican and former secretary of state of New Jersey.

"Who makes the call, under what circumstances is the call made, what are the constitutional implications?" he said. "I think we have to err on the side of transparency to protect the voting rights of the country."
I'd say he's exactly right. By bringing up the possibility now, I think that not only has he lessened the possibility of a terrorist attack being used to steal the election, he may even have lowered the probability of the attack itself. Let's have our "Fahrenheit 9/11" on the stolen election of 2004 BEFORE it happens.

A later story seems to reinforce the idea that Soaries is okay, despite being a Republican Bush appointee. He appears to be taking a serious look at the reliability and integrity of electronic voting machines.