• Perhaps We Should Put Off Election Day For A Few Weeks?

    If anyone was looking for an "October Surprise," Hurricane Sandy was it. Even though the storm had been downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a mere tropical storm, it was still the worst natural disaster to strike New York City and the rest of the Northeast U.S. in over a hundred years. As of yesterday, over 4.8 million people in over 15 states are still in the dark. Major portions of NYC's subway infrastructure remain flooded. Over a hundred homes in Rockaway burned to the ground shortly after the storm. Places like Hoboken, N.J. not only have to deal with a lack of power, but overflowing sewage and gas shortages, as well.

    This is what the NYC looks like shortly after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy. Pictures say far more than words can.

    After this weekend, there's only a single day standing between Americans and the nearest voting booths -- at least for those who aren't reeling from the devastation. There's plenty of talk about how Hurricane Sandy could tip the electoral scales in favor of Mitt Romney, since not only are many voters in the traditionally liberal Northeast are too busy cleaning up after Sandy, but whatever infrastructure that could have been in place for the elections...well, it might be a bit of a mess, depending on where you are.

    Earlier, both Dick Morris and Karl Rove were crowing over a projected "landslide" for the Republican contender. Post-Sandy, the sight of President Obama "being presidential" and the resulting poll data is making poor Dick second-guess himself. Nevertheless, these are dangerous times and I fully expect the Romney campaign and the GOP to do everything they can to tilt the election results in Mitt's favor, even if he continues to do an outstanding job of eating his own wingtips every second syllable.

    Hurricane Sandy wound up a brief conversation piece between me and a close family member. We both talked about the potential impact it could have on President Obama's re-election chances and how millions of people unable to head to the polls can tip the elections in one direction or another. She thought it would be best to simply postpone the upcoming elections until the bulk of the Hurricane Sandy cleanup work was done. Sandy has already put a damper on early voting in many areas and I can't see how those affected are going to be in any condition to head to the polls -- that is, if there are any polling precincts set up nearby.

    She's not the only one wondering if Election Day should wait. The main problem with any postponement is a legislative one, unless there's some legal gymnastics involved:

    When people go to the polls on Election Day, they aren't voting directly for their choice for president or vice president. Instead, they are voting to select representatives -- or "electors" -- to the Electoral College, the body that actually determines who will be president and vice president.

    The Constitution gives Congress the authority to determine "time" of choosing those electors. In 1845, Congress passed a law that set the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November of every election year as Election Day across the country.

    The same law also gives states some leeway in picking electors to the Electoral College. But to exercise that leeway, a state must have "held an election for the purpose of choosing electors," and "failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law." When that happens, the law says "the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such manner as the legislature of such state may direct."

    But the law passed by Congress setting Election Day only allows a state to pick its electors on a later date if it has already held an election on Election Day and "failed to make a choice" on that day.

    So a complete statewide postponement would arguably violate the 1845 law, the 2004 report suggested. But the report also pointed out that the Supreme Court has emphasized the role states play in selecting the presidential electors, so a state might be allowed to postpone an entire statewide vote for president in emergency circumstances like a hurricane or other natural disaster.

    Not only do you have this, but there are many who'd argue that creating an exception to the rule in this one case will open the door to more exceptions and eventual abuse in the future. Then there's the prospect of people complaining over a region and a largely liberal one at that receiving preferential treatment. They'll cite examples like Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that devastated much of the Mississippi River Valley back in 2011. However, those disasters occurred nowhere near the presidential election timetable, not even close.

    I'm torn -- as much as I want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to cast their vote come Tuesday, I hate thinking about the Pandora's Box that'll get thrown open in the event of a postponement.