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July 12, 2004

On Postponing the Election

Gee, I wonder if Paul Krugman is going to hyperventilate over this tomorrow.

Nick Kronos discusses the issue, although I think he misses the point. He talks about people having had their "minds changed" by a terrorist attack, and how such votes are just as good as any other.

That's not the main danger of a terrorist attack. I don't think that people are talking about contingency plans for postponing voting simply because a terrorist attack occurs in October and someone thinks it would be a good idea to have a "cooling off" period before elections, to let passions subside. At least, I hope that's not the sort of thing they're thinking about.

I personally am thinking of Democratic Primary Day 2000, better known as 9-11, when voting was simply cancelled. And even had it not been cancelled, no one was voting past 10:30 anyway, as we all had much more important concerns, such as stocking up on water and food and making sure that loved ones had made it home alive.

And some people, of course, were dead or in the hospital, while others were digging through hot, smoking rubble.

The main danger is that, either the day of voting or a few days before, terrorists blow up a few polling places, and thus suppress voting throughout America. Or that a major attack makes voting simply impossible or inadvisable in a big city.

Americans barely vote as it is; imagine the turnout when going to the local fire station could potentially result in death or maiming.

This could have all sorts of dire effects; oddly enough, though, such attacks would probably help Bush, because Republicans generally fare better with reduced turnout, and especially because most of these attacks will take place in cities.

In many states, the vote is a contest between the Republican rural areas and the Democratic cities. If bombs go off in Detroit or Dearborn polling places, for example, one could easily imagine the urban vote being badly depressed while the rural and suburban vote is less suppressed. And then Michigan, which might have gone to Kerry, would go to Bush.

The Constitution specifies the day upon which elections will be held. But what happens if events make it impossible to have a national vote on that day (by "national vote," I mean "all jurisdictions are able to vote")? What wins out? The Constitution or reality?

I think, on balance, we probably should just live with the consequences of a terrorist attack on or shortly before voting day. The trouble is that any other regime would put the power to decide whether to delay a vote or have a re-vote into someone's partisan hands, and no one in this country trusts the partisans of the other side.

Joshy Marshall would have conniptions about letting the Bush Administration decide to postpone an election; I honestly don't blame him. I sure wouldn't trust John Kerry or Al Gore to make such a decision, either.

However, if we agree that we will vote on Election Day come hell or high water, I don't want to hear the liberals like Josh Marshall demanding that we have a new vote or extended-voting-period should bombings damage Kerry's electoral chances. Either we agree, in advance, under what circumstances we might alter the rules and timing of voting, or we agree, also in advance, that whatever happens on Election Day, happens.

I don't want to experience what I know damn well will happen-- i.e., the liberals take a "wait and see" attitude as to which candidate a terrorist attack hurts, and then, if the attacks hurts Kerry, they then start demanding special rules after-the-fact.

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posted by Ace at 10:23 PM

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