A Loud 'No' to Delaying the Election; Disruption by Terrorists Feared

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 13, 2004 | Go to article overview

A Loud 'No' to Delaying the Election; Disruption by Terrorists Feared


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A suggestion that terrorism might delay the November election raised loud cries of "no" yesterday from both Republicans and Democrats.

The chairman of the House committee that oversees federal election law said devising a plan to postpone the Nov. 2 presidential election in case of a terrorist attack creates "serious and complex" constitutional problems.

"In the aftermath of September 11, we need to prepare for contingency plans for various situations," said Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Committee on House Administration, "but I have very serious concerns about giving one federal official or even a particular federal body the power to postpone or cancel a national election.

"Such a proposal would involve very serious and complex issues, many of which I do not think are even yet known. I would, however, be extremely hesitant to endorse such a proposal, especially at this early juncture."

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said last week that contingency plans were in the works at Homeland Security to deal with any disruption at the Republican or Democratic party conventions this summer in New York and Boston, or before the Nov. 2 election.

Newsweek magazine reported yesterday that the Justice Department had been asked to define the legal authority necessary for a postponement, if an attack occurred the day before or the day of the election. A Justice Department spokesman denied that any request for a "legal review" had been made.

Mr. Ridge's remarks were included in a warning that al Qaeda terrorists, who killed nearly 3,000 people in the September 11 attacks, had plans for another major attack against targets in the United States, although he had no information on the time, place or method of any such attack.

Homeland Security's review of contingency plans were prompted by a letter by the Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly named U.S. Election Assistance Commission, in which he told Mr. Ridge that the department should seek legal advice on how to delay the election in the event of a terrorist attack.

In the letter, Mr. Soaries, elected chairman in March after President Bush named him to the commission, said a review was necessary because the government lacked statutory authority to cancel or reschedule a federal election.

He proposed that Congress consider legislation giving the government such power, noting that New York's Board of Elections suspended primary elections in New York on the day of the September 11 attacks. National elections have been held on several occasions during wartime, including the election of 1864 when the nation was divided by civil war.

No one was available yesterday at the commission, and Mr. …

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