Ken’s Take on the World


Election Day 2012*

Election 2012*

 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 marks an historic national election.  It will mark the first time a black President has been re-elected to the highest office in the land or it will elect the first Mormon to the White House.  On a more somber note, the election will be historic because it will mark the first time in our nation’s history that millions of American citizens will be disenfranchised from the voting process.  I am not referring to the voter suppression laws that have been implemented in a number of states or accusations of intimidation or deliberate misleading of voters which are both unlawful and immoral.  I am referring to the House GOP leadership failing to recognize the severity of a national crisis and calling the Congress back into an Emergency Session.  Election Day, 2012, will go into the history books as an event with an asterisk after it.

 

This past week our nation, specifically the east coast and New England, were struck by Hurricane Sandy.  Millions of people were evacuated from their homes and millions remain without power in the hard hit areas.  Damage from the storm extended as far west as Michigan, as far south as North Carolina and directly affected at least 15 states and the District of Columbia.  It is estimated that as many as one million homes and businesses could remain without power for another six to ten days.  The election is now less than five days away.  How are one or two million American citizens who have been displaced as a result of the storm supposed to have the right to cast their ballot in this historic election without Congress stepping in to ensure this happens?

 

Some of you may be thinking, well the hardest hit states are pretty solidly blue and regardless of voter turnout, will probably stay blue giving their Electoral College votes to the sitting President and this is probably true.  However, it is important to remember that a number of states affected are not “blue” states, so how will voter turnout affect these races.

 

First, one must look at the demographics involved in the displacement of population caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Perhaps a million people from New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia evacuated their homes due to the incoming storm or as a result of storm damage and as many as 2/3 of these will be unable to return to their homes before the election day.  In addition, thousands of emergency and disaster-relief workers poured into affected areas to help restore food supply, water supply, electricity, sanitation, transportation, medical services, government services, sewage, clearing of debris, inspection of infrastructure components, demolition and construction services, etcetera.  These folks will not be returning home before election day.

 

Second, we need to look at the logistics involved in preparing and conducting a natural election.  The nation has dealt with issues relating to minor weather events and other unforeseen events that impact small geographic areas and local voting officials have been able to accommodate voting by shifting folks to a different precinct within their community.  Are there enough electrical generators available for use to power all of the election precincts in the affected areas?  What about polling places that were destroyed by the storm?  Sure, communities have coped with a fire or power outage or a flood that led a polling place in a community to shift operations to another location within the community.  What happens when ALL of the polling places within the community have been wiped out?  When there is no power, how do you effectively communicate with the voters to inform them as to where they should go to vote?  How do you handle people who do not have their Voter ID card, or Driver’s License, or other identification as a result of fleeing the storm?  How do you address the votes of the thousands of relief workers that are many miles from their own homes?

 

Under the US Constitution, it takes an act of Congress to change a date for a national election.  This is one of the true powers of Congress.  Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) has signaled no intent to call Congress back into Emergency Session.  The House of Representatives has been adjourned until November 13, 2012.  Without action by this Congress, the election will be held, as scheduled under law on November 6, 2012, and millions of Americans will not be permitted an opportunity to cast their votes for President and Vice President, US Representative, or US Senator.  Secretaries of State, in the affected states, have the authority to adjust the date of elections within their states for non-national races only.  This means, they could tally the votes for President, Vice President and US Congress and reschedule an election for statewide offices or ballot proposals.

 

Some people may think that many of the folks currently without power are in urban, or metropolitan, areas and would tend to vote for the re-election of President Obama and therefore no Congressional action is necessary.  Following a national catastrophe of the magnitude we have experienced, it is these areas that generally have the most resources directed toward the restoration of services.  It is the more rural areas that may suffer a greater impact if Congress does not take action and Mr. Boehner is well aware that many of these areas trend toward voting Republican.

 

In any case, the election that is merely five days away, will be remembered as seriously flawed and whomever occupies the White House in January of 2013 will be forever a tainted candidate because the votes of many Americans were not allowed to be cast.

 

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