Thank you very much for contacting me to share your concerns about the possibility of a terrorist attack affecting this year's election. I appreciate the time that you have taken to contact me, and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, Spain, which took place several days before Spain's parliamentary elections, have led some observers to conclude that the attacks were an attempt to influence the outcome of their elections. Many of these same observers believe that the United States should institute measures to ensure the continuity of government in the event of a terrorist attack aimed at influencing our elections.
Despite initial reports that the Homeland Security Department was considering postponing elections in the case of a terrorist attack, the Executive Branch does not appear to currently have the authority to establish or postpone the dates of federal or state elections in the case of an emergency situation. As you may know, Article II, Section 1, cl.4 of the Constitution provides that Congress may determine the "time" of choosing Presidential electors. Congress has determined this date, by statute, as the "Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President."
Although the Executive Branch does not currently have the authority to postpone elections, under the separation of powers clause, Congress could pass legislation to delegate this power to the Executive Branch, as long as it sets standards for the Executive Branch to implement such a postponement. However, the likelihood of this ever happening is slim. On July 22, 2004, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation stating that "the actions of terrorists will never cause the date of any Presidential election to be postponed and that no single individual or agency should be given the authority to postpone the date of a Presidential election." Rest assured, if legislation is ever brought before the Senate for a vote, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Please keep in touch.
United States Senator