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ITeam Report: Could Sandy postpone Election Day?

November 2, 2012 8:01:44 AM PDT
As millions remain without power and transportation, the presidential may be the last thing on their minds. But what would happen if large sections of the East Coast can't vote next week? Could the election be rescheduled?

Could the election be postponed? Yes.

Will voting be rescheduled from coast-to-coast next Tuesday? Very unlikely, according to election officials.

However, there is no precedent for this in a national general election, and there are some state-by-state changes that could occur as a result of the superstorm short of actually moving the election to another date.

As the sting of the storm is still fresh, election preparation up and down that East Coast -- and hundreds of miles inland -- has been suspended.

Early voting sites in several states were underwater Tuesday, inaccessible and closed.

Electricity is out to wide sections of the eastern seaboard, and authorities say it may be more than week for some areas to be reconnected.

Without power or generators, which already are in short supply, polling places couldn't open.

Congress only sets the date of the election, and the Constitution gives election administration to the states. There is no federal statute or constitutional provision that allows the U.S. government to suspend or postpone state-run elections.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, New York postponed its statewide primary.

Most states, including Illinois, have emergency election laws. If certain portions of presidential battleground states are still affected by power outages or storm damage next week, they could relocate precincts or postpone voting to another day by order of the state governor or in some cases local election authorities.

A 2004 report to Congress examined the possible postponement and rescheduling of federal elections. It found that "the federally established date for elections for federal office...may not necessarily be an 'absolute,' such that no election subsequent to that date could be or should be recognized."

For example, stated the report, "In a violent disruption of an election in Manhattan, New York City, should not necessarily affect, or at least could not predictably affect, an election in Manhattan, Kansas."

It is easy to forget that the presidential election is really not a national election; it is actually 51 separate elections in each state and the District of Columbia for presidential electors, who are pledged to one candidate or another.


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