For anybody politically active, there is a little nagging worry about what would happen in case Al Queda and Co. strike in order to disrupt the election of our next president. Outside The Beltway has a nice round up of issues facing November but what about the December elections? Elections for president and vice president are indirect after all and it’s the Electoral College that has the final say.
In Illinois, that’s 21 people trudging down to Springfield one fine December day to meet, conduct their vote, make sure the paperwork is in order, and go home. But what if on arrival, their meeting place were bombed and all 21 were killed? What then? Even if it weren’t some nefarious plot but just blocked arteries or the proverbial bus coming out from nowhere, surely there is some law setting the procedure for handling a tragedy and ensuring that come January 21 votes from Illinois are counted for President.
The federal law is clear. Electoral College member selection is a matter for each individual state legislature. So what procedure has Illinois set up? I ended up talking to Steve Sandvoss, a very helpful fellow down at the state board of elections. After consultation with a colleague, the answer came back that the legislature hasn’t acted at all in the area but that presumably the party that nominated them would meet, appoint any needed replacements, and the votes would be cast the way that the people wanted them to be cast.
This isn’t a bad guess at where the political process would eventually force the Governor (who has to certify the electors to the federal archivist) and the legislature (who, according to federal law, has the right to select them however they please) to end up at but flying by the seat of your pants is not something you want to do. Clear rules are very much preferable as we all found out on 9/11. There’s plenty of time to think this sort of thing through and push through a bipartisan procedure that will fill this void in state law. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a tragedy to fill this legislative void.
One temptation, of course, would be for the legislature dominated by one party to replace the electors of another party to a slate that would vote differently. Another temptation would be for the Governor to not certify the new name(s). A third temptation would be for a Senator and a Representative to try to get the new elector(s) votes nullified on the grounds that they were improperly selected. In a very close election, who knows who will yield to temptation when the law itself is mute?