Convention Timing Creates Challenges for Bush

The Republican Party (search) is pushing the envelope — or at least, the calendar — by scheduling its 2004 national convention later than usual, forcing states to figure out ways to prevent President Bush from being left off the ballot in November. 

In California, Bush may be forced to become a write-in candidate because of a rule that says he must be certified 68 days before Election Day, according to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (search).

In 2004, the election will be held on Nov. 2. Sixty-eight days before that would be August 26. But the four-day Republican National Convention is not set to begin until Aug. 30. The president won't get the official nomination until the end of the convention, meaning if California's ballots include Bush, the state would be illegally jumping the gun on his nomination. 

California officials are wrestling with the dilemma.

"Our various jurisdictions throughout California have to get those ballots ready and have to get those ballots ready in more languages than in any other state of the country," Shelley said.

"We want them to be printed on time. We want there to be no question about people having the ability to go vote," said Mindy Tucker (search), special council for the California Republican Party.

Some Democrats are accusing the GOP of picking the late convention date and the New York City setting to ensure the Sept. 11 attacks are fresh in voters' minds. Republican officials say that is not true.

"We decided to have the convention after the Olympics in August. It was the only time that made good sense," Tucker said.

A number of states have faced the same date dilemma. Indiana and Idaho have changed their laws to get Bush on their 2004 ballots. Alabama and the District of Columbia are looking into changing their deadlines.

But California, with its 15 million voters, is still the electoral brass ring.

While California's government is completely controlled by Democrats, the state's chief elections official is promising to work with the GOP to resolve the matter.

"I very much respect the president and I respect the ability and the opportunity for him to be on the ballot. And I'm going to make sure that it happens as a Democratic secretary of state," Shelley said.

"I don't think this is really a problem. I think, you know, in the end everybody is going to want to have the election to be fair," Tucker said.