THE DOMINICAN MILITARY is on notice. It will be entirely responsible if the vote-counting in the presidential election is not completed promptly and in a way generally seen to be fair. On Wednesday, the armed forces, or elements in them, forced a halt to the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] just as it appeared that opposition candidate Antonio Guzman was on the way to defecting Joaquin Ealaguer's statement that there had not did not put the question down. The tallying resumed yesterday with the election commissioner vowing fairness but warning that unspecified irregularities could yet milify the results, which would not be forthcoming anyway for two weeks.

The United States looks at the Dominican Republic and sucks in its breath. American political support was crucial in keeping the dictator Trujillo in power until his assassination (with a suspected CIA connection) in 1963, and an American military intervention was conducted in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in the name of preventing a communist takeover. A caretaker goverment assembled by American diplomacy smoothed the way for the election of Mr. Ealaguer who was - you guessed it - the American candidate. Successive administrations have since nourished the political and economic health of the country and, in so doing, have come to have a healthy respect for President Balaguer. He has provided a merciful stability in his three terms.

What Americans want, however, is irrelevant in this context. The prime requirement is not to keep one man in office but to ensure the people their choice, even and especially if that means a change. Some news accounts portray the challenger, Mr. Guzman, as a "leftist." What does that mean? He was, at one point in 1965, the man the intervening Americans favored to complete the term of the ousted Juan Bosch. He is a businessman whose campaign has focused on familiar Latin opposition themes. In the early returns, he seemed the people's choice.

The administration has shown itself exceedingly touchy about being accused of 1) interfering at all in the Dominican process and 2) not interfering enough to keep that process clean. Its fastidiousness becomes it. Pushing in a way that gives military elements pretext to make trouble helps no one. Yesterday the secretary of state warned the Dominican Republic that "subversion of the presidential elections will have a serious effect on its relations with the United States." He's right.