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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off 

From Canada's Centre for Research on Globalization (via Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D.), an article by Michel Chossudovsky examining the genesis of the Election Assistance Commission -- and director DeForest Soaries's push for legislation that would empower the agency to cancel or postpone the November elections in the event of a terrorist strike:
"If we go to [code] Red ... it basically shuts down the country."
--Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, 22 December 2003
Homeland Security and the White House no doubt have several "scenarios" in mind to "win" the presidential elections in November. Recent developments suggest that Homeland Security is indeed contemplating a code red alert.

At the same time, the Bush Administration is also maneuvering cautiously behind the scenes, with a view to embedding formal "guidelines" into federal election procedures, which would allow for the cancellation or postponement of an election in the event of a terror attack.

To reach their objective, the Bush Administration is using the jurisdiction of one of its bogus federal agencies, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), established in 2003 under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) . . . .

What is important in this new initiative, is that if these so-called guidelines were to be adopted, the Administration would technically be able to postpone or cancel an election, "with the stroke of a pen", and without resorting to far-reaching emergency procedures and/or martial law.

A temporary postponement might be considered by Republican strategists as a (desperate) propaganda ploy, for swinging votes away from the Kerry-Edwards ticket. Whether these guidelines will be accepted prior to November by the Democrats is, at this stage doubtful.

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is described as a "clearinghouse of voting information and procedures". The statements and news coverage seem to suggest that if guidelines on the postponement or cancellation of elections are to be formulated, they should emanate from the EAC, which has a (bipartisan) mandate under the US Congress to oversee federal voting systems, rather than the DHS.

But the EAC is an "informal arm" of the Department of Homeland Security. Both the DHS and the White House are indelibly behind the proposed "guidelines" initiative, calling the shots from behind the scenes.

EAC Director Reverand DeForest "Buster" Soaries, a former Baptist minister, is a handpicked appointee. He was New Jersey Secretary of State under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who is a political crony of Sec. Tom Ridge, going back to their days as GOP governors of the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Todd Whitman was appointed by the Bush Admistration to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has since then worked very closely with Tom Ridge in the domestic war on terror . . . .

Secretary Tom Ridge has said that he is "against the guidelines." What he does not say is that various procedures have already been carefully worked out by Homeland Security analysts, who have simulated precise red code alert scenarios including situations implying the cancellation or postponement of elections . . . .

The setting of so-called "guidelines" at the level of an official body, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), would establish a "trigger mechanism" under the jurisdiction of a federal commission.

A code red alert would contribute to activating the guidelines, although the latter could indeed be activated without resort to "the highest" terror alert level.
The venerated Billmon has taken a semi-contrarian position on this issue, arguing compellingly that postponement of the election might not be such an awful thing if, in the wake of a really nasty terrorist attack on the eve of the election,
national polls show an enormous "rally around the President" effect, one that pushes Bush's approval ratings back towards 80% - not only enough to guarantee Shrub a landslide reelection victory, but also enough to sweep the Republicans to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a 1932 or 1974-sized edge in our Chamber of People's Deputies.

Under those circumstances, would you want the election to be held as scheduled? Or would you rather it was postponed for a month, until the initial shock had passed and the voters had had a chance to consider whether the administration's incompetence and the relative indifference of the GOP Congress to homeland security needs might not have contributed to the disaster? . . . .

But if your answer is no, you would not want the election to go forward on November 2 under the conditions I have described, then you have to acknowledge that some kind of legal mechanism needs to be created soon to allow someone in a position of national authority to make the call to postpone the election.
We're not in disagreement with Billmon's contention that a last-minute terrorist strike would almost certainly sweep Bush to re-election. We don't think for a moment that a second attack on American soil would push our (underinformed) electorate toward a Spanish-style rejection of the current administration and its policies. But that said, there's an obvious question that Billmon neglects to ask:

Why, under the circumstances described above, would the Bush administration even contemplate enacting legislation that would allow the election to be postponed?

Altruism? Respect for democracy? A desire to give their Democratic opponents a fair shake? A deep-seated belief that voters should make their choices based on cool, dispassionate reason, rather than high emotion?

Ever heard of Florida?

Whatever denials they may issue, they're publically flirting with the notion -- sending out trial balloons to see if the public would let them get away with it. But why, when simple self-interest would tell them to squash that idea flatter than possum guts on I-95?

You tell me.

UPDATE: The L.A. Times says Don't Worry, Be Happy:
"I am unaware of any such efforts," said Brian Roehrkasse, a department spokesman. "DHS is not looking into a contingency plan."

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice was even more emphatic. "Let me just be very clear: I don't know where the idea that there might be some postponement of elections comes from," she said on CNN.

The Department of Homeland Security has been researching laws and precedents in an effort to gather information but is not drafting a plan. An official said the research was prompted by inquiries from the Election Assistance Commission, a little-known federal advisory body whose chairman, DeForest B. Soaries, pointed out in a letter to the department that no federal agency had the authority to postpone an election.

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