The destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy has been horrific enough, but if there’s anything to be grateful for, it’s the storm’s timing. If Sandy had hit just one week later, we’d be facing a constitutional crisis.
As it is, there is plenty of speculation on the possible effects of the storm on the Nov. 6 election. There are multiple and conflicting answers to the concerns being raised—from political to statutory to constitutional—but they all obscure a larger and more troubling truth: there is absolutely no reason for us to be in this situation in the first place.
Of course, state and local governments have had to contend with elections disrupted by both manmade and natural disasters before. In 2001, New York City postponed municipal elections after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In 2005, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana had to figure out how to let all of the voters displaced by Hurricane Katrina cast their ballots (PDF).
Since those events, eminent election-law scholars have called on Congress to pass contingency plans for postponing federal elections, or at least modifying election rules, because of election-time disasters.