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National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article

Will Bush Cancel the Election?

by Jan Erickson, Government Relations Director

Canceling or postponing the Nov. 2 presidential election may sound like ultimate paranoia, but the rumor floating around may not be far from the truth. The Associated Press reported late June that Bush administration officials were asked to establish guidelines for canceling or postponing elections in the event of a terrorist attack.

The article reported that the Bush-appointed chair of the Election Assistance Commission, DeForest B. Soaries, sent letters in late April to National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to raise the possibility of a terror attack occurring at election time. (The Sept. 11, 2001 attack fell on Election Day in New York City.)

Newsweek magazine reported Soaries wanted Ridge to request that Congress pass legislation authorizing Ridge's agency to re-schedule elections.

Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that developing such plans was a necessary contingency effort in response to "doomsday scenarios," according to Yes!—Journal of Positive Futures.

When this information leaked into the public domain, Soaries issued a statement July 13, saying that "no circumstances could justify the postponement or cancellation of a presidential election in the United States."

However, vague language in that same statement indicated that "concrete dialogue and co-operative planning" with state and local election officials were underway, suggesting the development of a contingency plan.

A resolution (H. Res. 728) offered by Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, further attempted to calm fears about Republicans developing plans to cancel or postpone the election. Ney's resolution said national elections will never be postponed in the face of terrorist threats or attacks, "nor will any individual or agency be given the authority to postpone the date of a Presidential election." The measure passed 419 to 2 on July 22.

Resolutions, however, do not carry the force of law and are merely statements of a particular view or sentiment.

"I would not put anything past this administration—not even canceling or postponing the elections," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "But if that were to happen or if the election is stolen again, I believe that feminists and all friends of democracy will be protesting in the streets immediately."

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