Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Move Along, Nothing More to See Here
The chairman of the Federal Election Administration says the feds won't cancel or suspend elections this fall in the event of a terrorist attack. But what another member of the commission said, elaborating on the point, might not make anybody feel better: in his view, the Constitution gives individual states the right to postpone elections--or even appoint slates of electors--in the event of an emergency. (Specifically, Article II, which gives states the right to decide how presidential electors are chosen, and which empowered Florida's legislature in the 2000 election controversy.) So constitutionally, it seems possible that there would be no need to postpone the election--it could be legally cancelled and the state legislatures could pick the president.

Here in Wisconsin, for example, the state went for Gore by 5,000 votes last time and is evenly divided over Bush and Kerry this time, but the legislature is overwhelmingly Republican. So my first thought was that this is another way for the Republicans to subvert the will of the people and jack the election--then I started crunching the numbers. Assume that each candidate were to win all the states currently rated as solidly in their favor or close. (See Election Projection 2004 for the list.) This would give Bush 191 electoral votes and Kerry 230. Now, compare the composition of the state legislatures in those states. Assume that legislatures with Democrat majorities would select pro-Kerry electors and Republican majorities would select pro-Bush electors. By that arithmetic, Kerry still leads, 119-87. Bush actually loses a larger percentage of electoral votes by this arithmetic than Kerry does--55 percent versus 48 percent. Don't make book on any of this rough ciphering, though: Many statehouses are split between the parties, which means glorious partisan brouhahas would erupt from sea to shining sea. But it's interesting to see how the numbers break out.

But looking at it another way: Why would it matter if the election was postponed or not, in the event of a terrorist attack? Unlike the perfidious Spanish electorate, which was (as the Official State Media Storyline has it) frightened by the Al-Qaeda bombings into throwing out its resolute and heroic terror-fighting government in favor of a bunch of appeasers, America's rally-round impulses would likely have the opposite effect on our post-attack election. Billmon spins the scenario:
Suppose that on the eve of the attack, national polls and the electoral math both show Kerry-Edwards clinging to a narrow lead over Bush-Cheney, one that appears sufficient, barely, to put the Democrats back in the White House.

Let's further suppose that a week after the attack, on the eve of the election, those same 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?
Given the especially spineless performance of the Democrats after 9/11 (which generally continues today), I am not sure a month would be enough to help them find their cojones, let alone figure out how best to use them. And even if they did, rational consideration and reasoned debate would be swamped by mass national panic and people voting their fears. Which is why I believe, deep inside, the administration and its supporters would welcome an attack if it comes. More than anything else, more than catching Osama, more than a rebound in the economy or a 50 percent drop in gas prices, a terrorist attack means Bush gets reelected. Period. It won't matter when we have the election.

Other Interesting Stuff (as learned on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures):
There are currently more Republican state legislators than Democrats nationwide, by less than a one-percent margin out of over 7,800 seats. This is the first time that's been true in 50 years.

Five legislatures in states considered solidly for Bush or Bush-leaning have Democrat majorities in both statehouses: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Only two states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, flip the other way--solidly for Kerry or leaning that way with Republican legislative majorities.

Clearly, you can't swing a cat in the state of New Hampshire without hitting a state legislator. The New Hampshire House of Representatives has 400 members. Not 40--four hundred. (The State Senate has but 24.) Next to New Hampshire, the biggest state house is Georgia's, with 180. Alaska has both the smallest House and Senate--40 members and 20. The biggest state senate is Minnesota's, with 67 members.

And let's give it up to Nebraska--a one-house legislature in which candidates run without party affiliation. Now THAT'S entertainment.

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