By Wendy Underhill
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, election experts are considering how the nation can prepare for any number of natural disasters or emergencies. Check out the perspectives at Election Updates, The Election Academy, and ElectionLaw@Moritz.
Fortunately, 2012 is not the first time anyone has thought about this. Contingency plans have been a regular part of elections shop talk since September 11, 2001, when the attacks brought to the nation's attention the need for backup plans for all kinds of key services, including elections. Four years later, Hurricane Katrina reminded us of the same.
Many states have statutes that deal directly with how elections are to be handled in the face of emergencies. Louisiana offers a particularly detailed statutory plan.
Even with good statutes, state and local election administrators need more resources to create good plans. Here are just three:
- The U.S. Election Assistance Commission's chapter on contingency planning in its guidelines for election management.
- The Congressional Research Service's 2004 report, Postponement and Rescheduling of Elections to Federal Office.
- Report on Election-Related Contingency Planning, a 2007 report from the Wisconsin State Elections Board. It takes a national perspective, and gives a nice summation of at least a dozen states' plans.
And here is one more resource: The Elections Center. Doug Lewis, the executive director, sent an email out last night to the nation's election officials. In it he says:
To all of you who are our colleagues, we are thinking of you, sharing your heartbreak and hoping that you and your family will recover in the near future.
While it is difficult to share resources during the heavy requirements of a Presidential election, we will do what we can to assist with your needs. As you are able to get back into your professional duties, if you discover that you need help with the necessities of election related items, let us know.
I can't promise that you will get all that you need, but I can promise that election administrators throughout America will do what they can to be sure your voters are well served whenever you determine your priorities and your needs.
Now that is an excellent offer.