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Could Sandy postpone next week’s presidential election? Yes, in theory

Could Sandy postpone next week's presidential election? Yes, in theory

  • White House still doesn't know how the storm will affect next week's election
  • The president does not set the date for elections, but Congress does
  • States must determine their own voting strategy in emergency situations according to election regulations
  • Emergency plans can in some countries lead to legal bickering about the final results
  • Some of the most competitive states, such as Ohio and Virginia, have felt the impact of Sandy

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A week before a close election, superstorm Sandy has confused the presidential race, stopped early voting in many areas and encouraged some to think about whether the election could even be postponed.

It could take days to restore electricity to more than 8 million homes and businesses that lost power when the storm shattered the East Coast – leading experts to ask if the elections could be resumed from November 6.

Although the answer is of course yes in theory, the chance that the choice between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama is postponed is unlikely, despite the devastating effect of the superstorm that Sandy had on 60 million people in the northeast, or one sixth of the population .

US President Barack Obama talks about preparations for Hurricane Sandy during a briefing at the White House

US President Barack Obama talks about preparations for Hurricane Sandy during a briefing at the White House

But when the storm left its trail of destruction behind it, even a few of those who were closely involved in the election seemed in the dark about what options are available to cope with the storm.

Asked Monday whether President Barack Obama had the power to move the elections, White House Secretary Jay Carney said he wasn't sure.

Constitutionally, however, the president does not set the date for the elections, as Congress does.

The congress could act within a week to change the date, but that would be difficult because lawmakers are on a break and coming home to their districts campaigning for re-election.

Ground Zero: New Yorker starts cleaning after the destruction of Sandy Ground Zero: New Yorker starts cleaning after the destruction of Sandy

Ground Zero: New Yorkers start cleaning after the destruction of Sandy

Moreover, this would probably mean changing the date for the entire country, not just for those affected by the storm.

In addition, Congress only selects the date for federal elections, so changing the date would cause major damage to state and local elections that are also scheduled for November 6.

& # 39; For those states that do not yet have an electoral emergency process, any deviation from the established election process can easily give rise to legal challenges regarding the legitimacy of the elections & # 39 ;, says Steven Huefner, professor at Moritz College in Ohio State . ABC News Law.

& # 39; Even states with an emergency plan can face disputes about specific ways in which they have implemented their emergency plan. & # 39;

Some have asked whether it is likely that the elections will continue, but that New Jersey and New York may then vote at a different time.

That is possible, but the legal problems are difficult. In general, the states are responsible for their own elections.

The American Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepts relief supplies for people affected by Hurricane Sandy The American Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepts relief supplies for people affected by Hurricane Sandy

The American Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepts relief supplies for people affected by Hurricane Sandy

Each state has its own laws that deal with what to do if an emergency threatens the mood and who can make the call.

Federal law says that if a state fails to run an election for federal races on the day that Congress elects, the state legislator may choose a later date.

Nonetheless, experts told ABC News that even small quota arrangements, such as keeping polls open for longer at some locations or moving polling stations, are likely to lead to legal challenges and more preliminary voting, which can delay election results.

But state and federal laws are not always perfect. The governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, has said that his state's laws do not give him the authority to reschedule the presidential election.

Although a presidential election is never postponed, some point to earlier precedents where the vote has been postponed.

New York City held its mayoral primary when terrorists struck on September 11, 2001, and the city rescheduled the elections.

After hurricane Katrina in 2005, the governor of Louisiana postponed the municipal elections in New Orleans after the election officials said the polling stations would not be ready.

However, what seems to be the most is a compromise for those affected by the havoc caused by the storm.

Voting hours can be extended at different locations and paper ballots can be used instead in places where electronic voting machines are used.

Some areas may also choose to relocate polling locations if existing locations are damaged, inaccessible or have no power on election day.

But even a change to election day to meet those affected would cause problems in itself.

If polling times are extended, according to a law of 2002 adopted by Congress following the disputed 2000 election, voters who appear outside of regular hours must use provisional votes, which can be counted later and can be challenged.

Crucial swing conditions like Ohio have felt the impact of Sandy and could make a difference in the election next week Crucial swing conditions like Ohio have felt the impact of Sandy and could make a difference in the election next week

Crucial swing conditions like Ohio have felt the impact of Sandy and could make a difference in the election next week

Sandy & # 39; s impact was felt in some of the most competitive states in the presidential race, including Virginia and Ohio.

The more provisional ballot papers are issued, the greater the chance that the winner will not be known until days or even weeks after the election.

There is another problem if the polling hours are extended in some areas – such as those with the worst storm damage – and not in others.

That could lead to lawsuits under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, said Edward Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University.

Moving polling stations is also risky because it can reduce turnout, said Neil Malhotra, a political economist at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.

& # 39; If you disrupt their routine and polling station where they have always been to, even if you don't move it far, they will vote less, & # 39; he said.

The manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, said Monday that he expected the storm to strike in the coming week and affect the elections.

He said FEMA would look at what support it could provide to states before the election.

& # 39; This is led by the states & # 39 ;, he said.

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