Could Hurricane Sandy Delay The Election? Probably Not

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With all of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, some have asked if next week’s election might be delayed.   The short answer is no.

President Obama does not have the power to delay an election and schedule it for another date.   The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for the election.   However, it only gives them the power to set the election for federal offices.   Congress does not have the power to set the date for local offices.

Also, Congress is currently in recess so members can go home and campaign.  It’s not likely they could reassemble in time to pass any legislation concerning next week’s election.  With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and Democrats controlling the Senate, it’s not likely they would agree, either.

While it’s not clear what type of election systems are used in the states impacted by Sandy, here in Alabama, a lack of electricity would not severely hamper voting.   That’s because in Alabama we use paper ballots.   After voting, you normally put those into the computer at your polling place to be counted.  However, in a power outage, the ballots are instead placed into a separate section of the machine, where they could then be taken to a place with electricity to be counted later.

FEMA is working with the states impacted to make sure voting can go on as scheduled next Tuesday.   That might include making polling places a priority for restoring electricity or providing those locations with a generator.