Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Campaign of Fear

BushCo. and their allies are at it again. While on the stump, they accuse Kerry & Edwards of running a campaign of fear. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is, once again, asking questions about who has the authority to cancel elections should a major terrorist attack occur just prior.

Government officials say they have no specific intelligence to suggest an imminent attack; and many states, exercising caution, are putting various safety and emergency measures in place around polling time. Still, that hasn't stopped some people from wondering: In the event of a major attack around Nov. 2, could the election be canceled or postponed? And who has the power to decide?

The simple answer, like in Missouri, is nobody. But there are enough shades of gray to suggest all sorts of caveats and complexities. The bottom line: If an election-time catastrophe were to arise, the government's reaction would likely depend on the particulars of what happened when and where -- not to mention inevitable legal wranglings.
Yes, there are the usual statements that there are no specifics around attacks close to elections. But they go on with the article anyway. And although the article goes on to say that probably nobody has true legal authority to delay or cancel federal elections, there is this one, ominous paragraph to think about:

The Congressional Research Service, part of the Library of Congress, addressed the question in July and found that Congress does in fact has the power to postpone presidential elections in the event of a national emergency. Moreover, the CRS's sweeping review of American case law and statutes found that the executive branch also has the ability to make it "difficult or impractical" for an election to take place. A memorandum drawn up for lawmakers said that the administration could limit the movement of citizens under emergency powers although an "exercise of such power would not appear to have the legal effect of delaying an election." In such an event, it concluded, legal resolution would ultimately fall to the courts.
Such questions are legitimate to ask during planning sessions. But barring clear, actionable intelligence of the danger of such attacks, floating articles such as this just a week prior to the election is fear mongering at its worst.

Campaign of fear, indeed.

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