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Official calls for process to reschedule elections

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The head of a new federal voting commission suggested to congressional leaders Monday that there should be a process for canceling or rescheduling an election interrupted by terrorism, but national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said no such plan is being considered by the administration.

Federal officials warned last week that intelligence indicates al-Qaida wants to attack the United States to disrupt the upcoming elections.

"There does not appear to be a clear process in place to suspend or reschedule voting during an election if there is a major terrorist attack," DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the one-page letter.

Rice said the Bush administration, while concerned about the impact of terrorism, is not thinking of postponing the elections.

"We've had elections in this country when we were at war, even when we were in civil war. And we should have the elections on time. That's the view of the president, that's the view of the administration," Rice told CNN on Monday.

Soaries also sent lawmakers copies of an earlier letter he wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. In that letter, dated June 25, Soaries noted that Sept. 11, 2001, fell on Election Day in New York and state officials delayed voting until later that month. He wrote that no federal agency has the statutory authority to cancel or reschedule a federal election.

Soaries also expressed concern in the earlier letter that increased Election Day security could intimidate some voters, highlighting the need for communication between security officials and election administrators. He raised that issue again in his letter to lawmakers.

Soaries said Monday he was scheduled to meet early next week with Homeland Security officials to discuss the issues.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 created the Election Assistance Commission.


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