Election Administration during Natural Disasters and Emergencies: Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 Election

Specific Elections: 
Working Paper No.: 
Date Published: 
Robert M. Stein, Rice University


The conduct of elections is constrained by a myriad of factors that vary greatly across the 3,000+ jurisdictions authorized to administered elections in the United States. Among these factors are anticipated and unanticipated natural and man-made emergencies. Weather is foremost among the anticipated and probabilistic factors that can influence the operation of an election. Rain and other hazardous weather (e.g., hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, et al) can deter voters from voting (Gomez et al 2007) and interrupt balloting on and before Election Day. For example, damage to roads and buildings can impede voters and poll workers from getting to and operating polling places on and before Election Day. Moreover, a loss of power can render direct electronic recording (DRE) voting machines unusable. Voters that evacuate their homes before and after a natural disaster are indisposed to vote on or even before Election Day at their assigned polling place.

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