Elections and Natural Disasters

I fielded inquiries about early voting and Hurricane Sandy, as did my colleague Doug Chapin and my friends at the NCSL.

Short summary:  every year throughout the last dozen years, one or two states have looked at emergency provisions for elections, and at least half have done something during that period.  The most recent states, for instance, are DE and SD.

Pundits are already speculating about political advantages and disadvantages.  That’s unfortunate, but it takes some real cluelessness for former Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (FL) to make this statement:

This year is different than five, 10 or 20 years ago when there was only one day to vote and the availability of much more restrictive absentee ballot rules in place.  Now there are several days of early voting and an easier process to get an absentee ballot.  Voters no longer have to wait till election day and really have no excuse not to get it accomplished.  America will be very disappointed if the President tries to extend voting beyond Nov 6 to increase his chances of re-election.

Hello?  It’s a bit late to request a no-excuse absentee ballot when your power is out and streets are flooded!

There’s a much larger issue, however: the lack of emergency preparedness on the part of government officials.

I can’t help but recall the stillborn report from The Continuity of Government Commission which tried to fix serious deficiencies in the American system of succession. In that case, the requirement for elections in the case of mass vacancies or incapacitation could result in a non-functioning legislative branch for months.

No one seems to have contemplated what would happen if a natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Sandy were to hit just one week later than it did this year.

That’s lack of disaster planning on an epic scale.