A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Monday, July 12, 2004

Vote Nationally, Postpone Locally

Well, someone had to say it eventually. No one wants to be the first to ask what we should do if terrorists attack on or just before Election Day, but the responsibility falls to those in power. So a mid-level Bush Administration Official named DeForest Soaries has spoken up, asking the Attorney General’s office for advice on postponing the election should something big happen. The concern here – quite understandable – is that after Al Qaeda’s success in cowing the Spanish voters last spring they’ll try something similar here in the US come November. This is by no means an unrealistic expectation; when one kid gives in to a bully the inevitable result - all across the playground - is more bullying.

However, this needs to be approached with calm and reason. First of all, you’re going to have the loony left screaming crap like this. I’ve never even heard of Capitol Hill Blue before and it looks to be filled with the same shrill nonsense as other leftist rags (like the New York Press and The Nation). But no matter how unpopular their forum, the far left is going to have a field day with plastering “Bush Planning to Steal Election Again!” headlines on every pulp flyer – both real and virtual – that they can find. The Bush Administration needs to be so utterly transparent in their preparations for election postponement that they’re beyond reproach. Anything less will lend credence to the tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories of people like the staff of Capitol Hill Blue.

I also have my doubts that postponing the entire election is a good idea if something does happen. The expense would be huge, and completely needless in the 99.999% of the country unaffected by the attack. And what would it look like if a nation of 300 million people put off their most solemn right and responsibility because of the actions of terrorists? Even if they didn’t influence the outcome of the election, such terrorists would still certainly revel in the fact that all of America was “too afraid to vote” because of what they’d done.

It’d be better, I think, to come up with contingency plans for the major metro areas – the nations 50 biggest, say – that would allow any of them directly affected by the attack to postpone their vote for 24 or 48 hours. The rest of the country could still go out and cast their ballots like normal. Done this way we’d still get the vast majority of the vote done on time and also send a message to the hypothetical terrorists: America will not be intimidated, and our democracy will move forward in utter contempt of their cowardly, murderous, and ultimately useless attempts to derail it.