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US ponders delay Election Day
Updated: 2004-07-12 10:15

U.S. officials have discussed the idea of postponing Election Day in the event of a terrorist attack on or about that day, a Homeland Security Department spokesman said Sunday.

The department has referred questions about the matter to the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

The department wants to know about the possibility of granting emergency power to the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission, authority that Roehrkasse said was requested by DeForest B. Soaries Jr., the commission's chairman.

US Democratic Presidential candadite Sen. John Kerry, with running mate Sen. John Edwards, and President George Bush are surrounded by supporters on the campaign trail. [AP]
Soaries, who was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush, is a former New Jersey secretary of state and senior pastor of the 7,000-member First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey.

He wrote in April to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice asking them to seek such legislation from Congress, Roehrkasse said.

Roehrkasse said the recent discussions were sparked by intelligence indicating al Qaeda wants to "disrupt our democratic process."

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned of such an attack in a news conference last week, saying the warning was based on intercepted "chatter" among al Qaeda operatives.

Roehrkasse noted, however, that there was no specific information suggesting such an attack would be aimed at the political conventions or the November 2 Election Day.

The four-day Democratic convention kicks off July 26 in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Republican National Convention begins August 30 in New York City.

Ridge also said the nation's color-coded terrorist threat level would remain at yellow, or elevated.

Democratic Rep. Jane Harman of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, took issue with Ridge's comments Sunday.

"Six days ago, the leadership of the House and Senate intelligence committees and leadership of the House and Senate were briefed on these so-called new threats," Harman said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"They are more chatter about old threats, which were the subject of a press conference by Attorney General [John] Ashcroft and [FBI] Director [Robert] Mueller six weeks ago.

"[Ridge] sounded more like an interior decorator talking about what more we can do under the shade of yellow," she said.

What has Homeland Security officials worried is that terrorists could attempt to disrupt the election in same way that March 11 train bombings in Madrid created unrest three days before the Spanish general election, Roehrkasse said.

Although there is no evidence that the bombings influenced the Spanish election, Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero unseated Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose government supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

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