by Jeremy Leaming
In a number of states, Republican lawmakers have gone to great lengths to make voting a major pain. The Department of Justice, civil liberties groups and others have successfully fought to blunt many of those efforts. Now, in addition to Republican eagerness to limit voting, Hurricane Sandy has wrought large swaths devastation on the East Coast. Not only did Sandy knock out some early voting times in several states, it has left many of them with more work to ensure they will be prepared for Election Day.
Michael Cooper, in a piece for The New York Times, says the “obstacles are formidable. More than 8.2 million households were without power by midday Tuesday, with more than a fifth of them in swing states – a potential problem in an age when the voting process, which once consisted of stuffing paper ballots into boxes, has been electrified.”
Cooper’s piece notes that federal law gives states the ability to choose electors on a “subsequent day,” if they fail to do so on Election Day. But “prominent election lawyer Jerry H. Goldfeder says that while it may be legally “simple,” for states to choose how they might provide more voting opportunities after Election Day, “historically, politically and logistically, it would be highly extraordinary and unique event in American history.” Goldfeder said it likely makes more sense for Congress to clarify federal law to provide for a unified response to elections impacted by terrorist attacks or natural disasters.
Some states as Cooper notes have restored some early voting periods. (For example, Maryland Gov. Martin O’ Malley ordered early voting centers to reopen on Oct. 31 and extended early voting until 9 p.m. on Nov. 2 at those centers.)