The Corner

Delay Election Day? Hell No

As usual, I’m with Mark Steyn. All of this chatter about delaying Election Day is ridiculous on every level. First, it’s not going to happen. Despite the chatter, the president has no authority to change Election Day. None. Zip. Nada. Those people who simply assume this is a presidential decision are betraying the degree to which they simply accept the legitimacy of an imperial presidency. Now I understand limitations on presidential power haven’t always curtailed this president. But if he tried to move or delay Election Day, it would be a national scandal and outrage (or at least it should be). The power to set the Election Day lies with the states. You’d have to change a vast patchwork of state laws (all the Constitution requires is that the states deliver their electors in mid-December). Also, Congress has a role to play because it determines, by statute, the timing of elections. 

Chuck Todd who knows vastly more about politics than I do, should recall that 9/11 did not delay the New York mayoral race. It delayed the primary — which was scheduled on 9/11. Sandy made landfall eight days before the election — and wasn’t an act of war. If 9/11 is the best precedent for moving the federal election day, there is no precedent for it. And there is none. Sure, some local elections have been delayed for this or that reason. But this country held elections during the Civil War! Even FDR who violated a near-sacred tradition to run for a third term and fourth term, still ran for them.

This country is so bizarrely schizophrenic about voting it drives me crazy. We are constantly bathed in platitudes about how vital, wonderful, special, glorious, and sacred voting is. But don’t you dare ask the American people to put the slightest bit of effort into the practice. It must be convenient. It must be easy. It must be on my timetable, like a DVR’d episode of Nashville or the Price Is Right. Why not ask the American people to demonstrate that they appreciate the importance of voting? 

UPDATE: A lawyer friend (it’s possible!) clears up an ambiguity in my post:

What are you saying, that states could reschedule federal elections? I don’t think so. Federal election day is established by federal statute. States can’t vary it because of weather. Only Congress could — where you are talking about federal elections, that is. CRS did a look at this after 9/11.   

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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