The Right Coast

July 13, 2004
Elections and terrorism
By Tom Smith

Rick Hasen has a post on postponing elections due to terrorist attacks.

I don't know about the law of postponing elections, so I will let others opine on that. I do think some people are underestimating how disruptive terrorism could be of a national election. It would not take that much. Suppose terrorists managed to drop anthrax at a few polling places, then announced they had distributed anthrax at hundreds of places around the country. Would public health officials have any choice but to shut down polls and test them for contamination? Wouldn't millions of people stay away from polls for fear of catching the disease? Unfortunately, I fear the day when getting to vote is like getting on an airplane, in terms of security, is coming.

Personally, I think the idea of having national elections on a single day is sub-optimal for a lot of reasons, some of which can be modeled with real option theory. But that's another story. If you could avoid significant disruption by postponing an election for a couple of weeks, say, I think it would be worth it. Also, it seems to me having a plan to postpone in the event of attacks makes the terrorists' job harder, so long as the postponement is well planned and organized.