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  • Could Hurricane Sandy Affect the 2012 Election?

    The unusual question was asked to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “Would the President have the power to adjust Election Day?” Within hours, online forums and TV pundits began citing precedent for postponing elections, most notably the New York City mayoral election just after 9/11—a municipal election that, legally, has nothing to do with federal election timetables. Looking at U.S. history, it is clear that there is no precedent for postponing a national presidential election, even in the midst of foreign or domestic wars. Moreover, the President lacks the constitutional authority to alter or postpone a national election; the election timetable is specified by statute of Congress as authorized by the Constitution.

    No Precedent in 225 Years

    The 1812 presidential election took place as the United States was fighting its fourth foreign war. President James Madison sought re-election several months after declaring war on Great Britain and won by the narrowest margin in U.S. history to date. The election was inconvenient to the prosecution of the war and its outcome uncertain due to a bitterly partisan and nearly even national split, but the election was carried out on schedule. Postponing the national election was not seriously contemplated.

    In an even more disruptive state of war in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that the scheduled elections “added not a little to the strain” of the ongoing struggle, but postponement was not an option. “We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.” Lincoln further noted that keeping to schedule “demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.”

    As disruptive as hurricanes are, wars are much more so. Considering that the United States has maintained a regular and uninterrupted national election schedule for more than two centuries, including in times of devastating war, Hurricane Sandy would seem an odd and unlikely reason to postpone the presidential election. Not unlike 1864, it is an opportunity to prove to the world that the American people’s government can sustain a national election even in the aftermath of a terrible hurricane. As such, 2012 is yet another milestone of continuity for America’s experiment in constitutional self-government.

    Who Can Modify Scheduled National Elections?

    Beyond the absence of precedent, it is worth asking who has the legal authority to alter a nationally scheduled election. Carney’s answer: “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

    Yet, clearly, the President does not have such authority. If the November 6 election were to be postponed in all or parts of America, it must be the result of congressional legislation. Congress would have to amend the statute setting the timetable of presidential elections since 1854 (3 U.S.C. § 1) as the “Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President” or allow for a vis maior postponement of the elections in the states affected by the hurricane.

    Carney should revisit his statement and thereby indicate that the White House understands its constitutional limits and the historical record on this issue. To leave this question open simply gives Americans the worry of wondering whether or not the President understands the limits of his constitutional authority on the matter of national elections.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    26 Responses to Could Hurricane Sandy Affect the 2012 Election?

    1. Mickie Frenzel says:

      The only response to this is: Since when has the Constitution stopped this President?

      • O2BMe says:

        He and his friends from Acorn will steal this election and then he will issue and executive order that he can run for another 8 years.

    2. Joseph says:

      Could the Supreme Court, if asked by governors of states in the disaster zone like New York's Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey's Chris Christie, order a two-or-there week delay??

      • @undefined says:

        No, the Constitution is very clear on this point. "The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States." In reading this, Congress couldn't even give the affected areas a reprieve. They could however postpone it everywhere.

    3. Joe U says:

      The only way President Obama can win the election is to steal (or postpone?) it, and he knows it. I don't put a postponement attempt past him.

      • Wanda says:

        How would he steal it by postponing it. Would less people go out and vote? Would people not vote for Romney is it were postponed. Geesh! The only thing would be stolen is the Republicans making sure that the states that are secure Obama would not get to cast their ballots henceforth giving him less electoral college votes. Get a life.

        • dawn says:

          The republicans are trying to impoverish the middle class and the poor americans- and trust me they're many pr- why would you vote for somene who has to hide his money

        • Gigi Moore says:

          Obama benefits because the Scandal du Jour (Benghazi) will take a back seat on Fox News, the only television network that is willing to tell the American people the truth. Regarding the specific states impacted by this disaster, the electoral count won't be impacted because the lunatic electorate in New York and New Jersey were going to vote for Obama anyhow.

        • Wayne says:

          Wanda your comment makes no sense in states hit by the storm they already have some votes in. And voting has nothing to do with how many electoral votes a state gets just who they are for. If only one person in NY voted and he voted for obama, Obama would get all the votes. There are a few states that split there electoral votes ie not the all or nothing type but still it would depend on who the few voted that do vote. The only thing the storm does is maybe lessen the turn out but that is no reason to postpone the elections.

    4. Watcher 1 says:

      There is no constitutional or legal authority to postpone a federal presidential election. I do not feel that even the supreme court can alter this, the date is an established precedent and would take congress to overturn it.

      • Dawn says:

        Then I guess you don't know your history- what about FDR during WW2

        • @undefined says:

          The General Election in 1944 (the only presidential election held when the US was actively engaged in WWII) was held on November 7, 1944, which was the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, as established by Congress in 1854

      • pete says:

        They can go ahead and schedule the Supreme court for a decision between now and Nov 6th. Not going to happen so

    5. Bobbie says:

      Had America appropriate spokespeople who do know the answer, Carney's would have been as simple as "the President does not have constitutional authority." Plain and simple, Mr. Carney!

    6. rowens says:

      Let the chips fall where they may. The American people will speak in the states that can vote. I see no problem with letting the remaining voters make the call. If they have no election they have no electoral votes period.

    7. toledofan says:

      The Presdient doesn't have the authority to do this and it should be a mute point. But, at this point in the game, nothing would surprise me. These democrats, including Obama, are the most corrupt I've ever seen in my lifetime. The things they have done make Watergate, Iran Contra and the Monica Lewinsky debacle look like childs play in comparison to Fast and Furious, the Obamacare debacle, and Benghazi. Heck, if Obama looses it'll probably take the National Guard to get him out of the White Hosue.

    8. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Since the states, not the federal government, set the elections in their jurisdictions, why not have the states affected by Frankenstorm Sandy postpone the election?

    9. Ken says:

      The articles cited a constitutional source to support its Congress-only position. Haven't seen any reputable sources for the opposite views.

    10. Jackie says:

      When we had bad weather here in south Alabama they postponed elections for some people others did not.

    11. rick jones says:

      Especially with the additional cries and email evidence about Benghazi, Obama isn't about to prolong the election giving more time and more demands by Fox and real news agencies to answer questions regarding Benghazi terrorist attacks on the consulate. What's more, we can only hope he has to answer questions eventually. It doesn't take an investigation for the president to state very clearly what he knew…when did he know it and who sent UN Amb. Rice and Carney on their "talking points" gigs.

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