Election Emergencies

9/1/2020

elections voting

Our organization does not run elections and cannot provide legal advice. If you are a voter looking for assistance, please contact your local election official. You can find your local election official's website and contact information by using this database from the US Vote Foundation.

Election emergencies can develop from public health crises, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, power outages, active shooter situations, cyberattacks and any number of other events. They can affect one jurisdiction, or a whole state. States cannot prepare for absolutely all circumstances, but they can, and have, taken steps to be prepared.

On this webpage you will find information on:

  • State laws relating to the postponement or relocation of an election.
  • The executive branch role in election emergencies.
  • Examples of emergencies around the nation.
  • Potential mitigation strategies.

State Laws Relating to Election Emergencies

Election dates are set by state statute and, with the exception of special elections that may crop up from time to time, are usually set according to a longstanding schedule.

Election officials spend months planning an election, including what would happen if there were to be an emergency on Election Day. And yet, they can’t possibly predict the natural disasters or emergencies that could disrupt an election.

At least 45 states have statutes that deal with Election Day emergencies in some way, though there is little consistency between states on what events would be covered and exactly what plans will be followed in each emergency.

State statutes relating to election emergencies vary greatly. (For citations and statutory excerpts, go to the section on Tables.) The most common statutory approach is to permit delaying an election, changing polling place locations, or doing both as shown in this chart:

Delay/Reschedule the Election

Relocate Polling Places

Both Delay and Relocate

Idaho

Alaska

Florida

Kentucky

Arkansas

Hawaii

New York

California

Louisiana

Oregon

Colorado

Maryland

South Dakota

Georgia

South Carolina

Utah

Illinois

Virginia

 

Kansas

 

 

Maine

 

 

Minnesota

 

 

Missouri

 

 

Montana

 

 

Nevada

 

 

New Jersey

 

 

Ohio

 

 

Pennsylvania

 

 

Tennessee

 

 

Vermont

 

 

West Virginia

 

 

California, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia have the nation’s most expansive election emergency statutes.

  • California addresses changing the location of polling places or satellite locations in case of an emergency, as well as giving the secretary of state the authority to set rules and procedures should an emergency arise.
  • Florida law covers everything from canceling and rescheduling an election to requiring that polls have emergency guidelines.
  • Oklahoma requires that the secretary of the state election board declare an “election emergency,” which is independent of a declared “state of emergency.” Once an election emergency is declared, the secretary of state has the authority to cancel and reschedule an election or provide a means to continue the election.
  • Virginia law permits the postponement of an election, adjusting polling places locations, and permits alternative methods and procedures to handle applications for absentee ballots and absentee ballots.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the New York Legislature passed the Emergency Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2001. This was a one-time piece of legislation rescheduling the 2001 New York primary after the attacks.

New York also has a unique election emergency statute. If an emergency causes fewer than 25 percent of registered voters to show up to vote, then there can be another day of voting not more than 20 days after the original election date.

NOTE: Emergencies often require unilateral action from the executive branch. In eight states (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia), the governor is statutorily granted the power to delay or reschedule an election. In Utah, the lieutenant governor, as the chief election official of the state, is granted the authority to delay or reschedule an election. Illinois and Maine also require conferral with the governor’s office in order to enact emergency procedures during an election.

Governors also have broad emergency authority which may cover election emergencies. See the section on Gubernatorial Role in Election Emergencies.

See Table 1: Election Emergency Statutes in the "Tables" section for complete information on each state’s laws.

Gubernatorial Role in Election Emergencies

In an election emergency, all three branches of government may play a role. Typically, in a state of emergency the governor is granted maximum executive power. However, the legislature may have passed statutes that conflict with the interests of the governor. Questions of statutory or constitutional authority in an election emergency will be left to the state’s court system.

The table below details the governor’s power in each state during a state of emergency. There are four general categories that can overlap: the ability to suspend statutes and regulations, the ability to suspend regulatory statutes prescribing the conduct of state business, the ability to suspend regulations and the ability to modify an election directly. The most authoritative category is the ability to suspend statutes. The next category has broad language that permits the governor to suspend regulatory statutes prescribing the conduct of state business. There is not a clear definition of a “regulatory statute prescribing the conduct of state business,” but this could include election administration statutes. State legislatures and state courts have not defined this phrase, which could vary by state. The final column is simply an indicator of state legislatures that have granted their governor emergency power over some aspect of an election.

  • In at least 14 states (Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin) the legislature has granted the governor power to suspend statutes.
  • In 22 more states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia) the governor may suspend regulatory statutes, which may include statutes related to elections.
  • In 12 states (Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming) the governor can suspend regulations created by administrative agencies.
  • Kentucky has granted its governor emergency power over some aspect of an election. Seven other states (Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia) have granted their governor emergency power over some aspect of an election but also fall into other categories.
  • Ohio is the only state that does not grant their governor emergency power that could fall into one of the four categories below. However, the Ohio governor is to work concurrently with the department of emergency management to control an emergency (ORC Ann. 5502.22).

See Table 2: Gubernatorial Role in Election Emergencies in the "Tables" section for complete information on each state’s laws.

Election Emergency Case Studies

Election emergencies can vary widely, and election officials have shown remarkable flexibility in adapting—often with little notice. When the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks devasted New York City, the state legislature passed the Emergency Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2001 just two days later. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic forced twenty states to reschedule state and presidential preference primaries to accommodate public health concerns about spreading the virus in crowded polling places. The pandemic also prompted many voters to use their state’s absentee voting options, and some states opted to send mail/absentee ballots or mail/absentee ballot applications to all voters.

Natural disasters can wreak havoc on carefully planned elections, too. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy disrupted elections up and down the east coast. Jurisdictions in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia were forced to cancel early voting days, and New Jersey made use of provisional ballots, extended poll hours and mobile polling places to accommodate displaced voters. When Hurricane Michael ravaged Florida in October 2018, local election officials employed “mega polling centers,” extended early voting and allowed mail voters to receive their ballots at different addresses. Some voters in Bay County—one of the areas most devasted by the hurricane—used fax and email to get their votes in.

Even if a disaster occurs months before Election Day, its effects can ripple throughout the election. In August 2010, a warehouse fire destroyed nearly all of Harris County, Texas’s electronic voting machines. The machines could not be replaced, so election officials encouraged people to vote early and by mail to limit a crush at the polls. Fortunately, a plea to other Texas counties to loan extra equipment was ultimately successful, and Election Day ran smoothly.

Legislative Strategies to Prepare for an Emergency

Each emergency will be unique, and no amount of legislating can prepare all election jurisdictions in a state for all eventualities. And yet, it isn’t the nature of the event (cybersecurity, natural disaster, active shooter, etc.) that matters; it is the resulting legal and practical problems.

In 2018, NCSL worked with William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts to explore the legal landscape surrounding election emergencies. One outcome was that state laws can be either too prescriptive and may not apply to all eventualities, too general and may not provide guidance in the event of an emergency, or somewhere in between. What is right for one state will not work for others in many cases, although states can learn from their sister states.

Legislators can consider asking for a review of existing statutory and regulatory guidance to identify any gaps that could be addressed. Does existing law and regulation:

  • Address only Election Day emergencies, or emergencies that hit during the run-up to an election?
  • Focus on the effects of an emergency, as opposed to the type of emergency?
  • Sufficiently accommodate the potential for cybersecurity issues? Legislators could recommend that state agencies review options for support and assistance activities offered by the Department of Homeland Security, including pre-event emergency preparedness training.
  • Consider statutory or regulatory designation of the state’s chief election official (or designee) to regularly communicate with federal, state and local agencies that provide response to emergency events for purposes of designating plans to protect election resources where possible.  Such communication can be coordinated through resources such as the National Emergency Managers Association database.
  • Provide authority for extension of deadlines, election postponements, or public outreach to address the loss of public participation in elections affected by an emergency event?
  • Provide authority for changing a polling location if needed?
  • Apply UOCAVA standards for voting for first responders and utility workers who are out of state to provide emergency services, thus making it possible for them to vote even though they are absent? [See e.g., Alabama (Code of Ala. § 17-11-50); Arizona (A.R.S. § 16-543); Colorado (C.R.S. 1-8.3-105(2)); and Idaho (Idaho Code § 34-201)]
  • Require that a sufficient quantity of ballots be produced, or that there be an alternative method for producing ballots, such as the use of ballot-on-demand printers, in case of an emergency? 
  • Specify minimum storage requirements to protect ballots from hazardous conditions?
  • Require an emergency plan be filed with state or local authorities before each election by local election officials? See Minnesota Minn. Stat. § 204B.181

Additionally, a state can consider whether courts can easily interpret (and/or fill omissions in) state laws governing emergencies to resolve election disruptions and disputes that may arise.

Tables

See below for:

Table 1: Election Emergency Statutes

Table 2: Gubernatorial Role in Election Emergencies

Table 1: Election Emergency Statues

State & Powers

Statutes

Alabama

Code of Ala. § 17-11-3(e): In a state of emergency, citizens can vote by absentee ballot.

  Code of Ala. § 17-11-50: Secretary of state can adopt special procedures for UOCAVA voters during an emergency.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 15.15.060(a): The election supervisor and election board chair may, in an emergency, secure an alternate location for a polling place.

Arizona

A.R.S. § 16-564: If a polling place is moved, the ballot box can be moved, but must be accompanied by two members of the election board.

  A.R.S. § 16-543: The secretary of state can change procedures to comply with UOCAVA in case of an emergency.

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 7-5-101: The county board can only change the location of a polling place in an emergency.

California

Cal Elec Code § 19104(a)(1): The Secretary of State, in consultation with county elections officials, shall establish the procedures and guidelines for voting in the event of a natural disaster or other state of emergency.

  Cal Elec Code § 12281(b): If the location of a polling place is changed at the last minute, it must be as close to the previous poll as possible and the county must post notice.
  Cal Elec Code § 3018(b): In an emergency, notice of satellite voting locations must be given with 48 hours of the election.
  Cal Elec Code § 15213: In an emergency, ballots may be counted at the precinct.
  Cal Elec Code § 19005: In the event of a power outage, ballots may be marked in ink.

Colorado

C.R.S. 1-5-108: Election officials can move a polling location or a drop off location in an emergency.

  C.R.S. 1-5-703: Officials need not heed the specific design standards laid out in 28 CFR Part 36 in the event of an emergency.
  C.R.S. 32-1-103(21): A district court judge may change the dates of a special election in the event of an unforeseeable emergency.
  C.R.S. 1-8.3-105(2): The secretary of state can change procedures to comply with UOCAVA in case of an emergency.
  C.R.S. 1-7.5-115(1): Voters can request a replacement ballot if the original is lost in an emergency or natural disaster.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-174a: Counties shall either create their own emergency plan or adopt the state’s model plan.

Delaware

15 Del. C. § 5524: The state election commissioner can adopt special procedures for UOCAVA voters during an emergency

  15 Del. C. § 7550: State Election Commissioner may, unless otherwise provided in the municipality's charter and/or ordinance, cancel any municipal election the conduct of which is rendered impracticable due an emergency.
  15 Del. C. § 5302: You could be subject to a fine or imprisonment if you lead an army on the state on an election day.

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 101.698: The Election Canvassing Commission may adopt rules that allow overseas citizens an opportunity to vote in an emergency.

  Fla. Stat. § 101.71(3): The supervisor of elections shall designate a new polling place which shall be accessible to the public on election day and shall cause a notice to be posted at the old polling place advising the electors of the location of the new polling place in an emergency.Fla. Stat. § 101.732: Definitions related to the Elections Emergency Act
 

Fla. Stat. § 101.733: The governor may delay and reschedule an election with consultation of the secretary of state. The Division of Elections and Department of State must adopt an emergency contingency plan.

  Fla. Stat. § 101.74: In the case of an emergency, the supervisor of elections may establish a new polling place outside of the precinct.
  Fla. Stat. § 101.75: Municipalities can move the date of their elections to conform with the statewide or county election.
  Fla. Stat. § 102.014: The polling place procedure manual shall contain emergency procedures.
  Fla. Stat. § 102.112: The deadline for the submission of returns may be moved back by the Election Canvasing Commission in an emergency.

Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 21-2-265: If an emergency occurs within 10 days of an election, the superintendent of the county may move the polls to another location inside or outside the precinct.

  O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1: The secretary of state may extend filing deadlines for candidates in a state of emergency.
  O.C.G.A. § 21-2-418: Provisional ballots may be used to cast votes if an emergency renders machines unusable.

Hawaii

HRS § 15-2.5(a): The chief election officer and county clerk can require voters in a precinct to vote absentee in an emergency.

  HRS § 11-92.3: If there is a natural disaster, the chief election officer of a county can delay the election no more than 21 days, move polling places, or consolidate precincts.

Idaho

Idaho Code § 34-106(1)(C) In an emergency, the date of an election may be changed by the governing board of a political subdivision.

  Idaho Code § 34-201: The secretary of state can adopt special procedures for UOCAVA voters during an emergency.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/20-25: If the armed forces are deployed or there is a state of emergency declared by the president or governor, then the governor or executive director of the state board of elections can modify registration and voting procedure to use mail-in voting.

 

10 ILCS 5/7-47.1: If an emergency requires the use of a precinct that is not handicap accessible, then 2 election judges will meet handicap voters outside to assist with voting.

 

10 ILCS 5/11-4.2: Handicap voters must be given an alternative means of voting if a county uses an inaccessible polling place for handicap persons.
  10 ILCS 5/19A-15(c): The election authority may close an early voting polling place if an emergency occurs.

Indiana

Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 3-11-4-1(c): Citizens can vote absentee if an emergency would prevent them from going to the polls.

 

Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 3-6-4.1-16: The election commission can adopt emergency rules to administer an election in a way not specified by the election code.

  Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 3-6-4.1-17(a): In an emergency, the election commission can extend the deadline for filing documents and performing duties.

Iowa

Iowa Code § 47.1: The state commissioner of elections may exercise emergency powers over any election being held in a district in which either a natural, other disaster, extremely inclement weather, mobilization or the armed forces or an error in an election making it impossible to determine results. The state commissioner shall adopt rules describing the emergency powers and the situations in which the powers will be exercised.

Kansas

K.S.A. § 25-622: The secretary of state can adopt alternative methods for distributing ballots in a time of war, equipment failure, or disaster that makes it impossible for voters in an area to obtain ballots.

  K.S.A. § 25-2701(d)(1): County election officers can change polling places without required notice in an emergency.

Kentucky

KRS § 117.187(2)(q): County boards must train all election officers on the emergency contingency plans

  KRS § 39A.100(1)(l): The governor, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of State, may declare by executive order a different time, place, or manner for holding elections in an election area for which a state of emergency has been declared for part or all of the election area. The election shall be held within thirty-five (35) days from the date of the suspended or delayed election.

Louisiana

La. R.S. § 18:401.1: The governor may suspend or delay any election in a state of emergency or a pending emergency.

 

La. R.S. § 18:401.2: Upon recommendation of the county clerk, the secretary of state may move polling places in an emergency.

 

La. R.S. § 18:401.3: If during a state of emergency, the secretary of state believes an emergency will impair the conduct of an election, then the secretary of state will develop a plan to be voted on by committees in both chambers and approved by the governor before implementation.
  La. R.S. § 18:135(A)(2)(a): If an emergency causes not a single registration office to be open on the last day of registration, then registration will continue for one more day on the next business day a registration office does open in the parish.

 

La. R.S. § 18:1309(B)(1): In a state of emergency, the registrar may use a temporary office either within the parish or in the parish immediately adjacent.

  La. R.S. § 18:534: The governing authority of a parish may move a polling place in an emergency.

Maine

21-A M.R.S. § 631-A(3): Municipal officers can change the location of a polling place in an emergency.

 

21-A M.R.S. § 663: The secretary of state may work to facilitate voting in areas where the governor has declared a state of emergency.

  21-A M.R.S. § 604: (Emergency Ballot Procedure) The secretary of state may provide new ballots when a county does not have enough for voters.

Maryland

Md. Election Law Code Ann. § 8-103: In a declared state of emergency, the governor may delay an election, alternate polling locations, or use an alternative method for voting. If it is not a declared state of emergency, the state or local election boards can petition a circuit court for remedies.

  Md. Election Law Code Ann. § 2-303(f): In an emergency, local election boards can move and create new precincts subject to approval by the state board.

Massachusetts

N/A

Michigan

MCLS § 168.782b: If the voting machines become inoperable, then the county board shall provide emergency ballots.

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 204B.14: Local officials may combine polling places in the event of an emergency.

  Minn. Stat. § 204B.175: In an emergency, local election officials can designate a new polling place, but must post notice.
 

Minn. Stat. § 204B.181: The state and counties must have emergency plans in case of an emergency on an election day.

  Minn. Stat. § 205.10: Special elections can be held on a different date than prescribed if there is an emergency.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-531.12: Voters can cast emergency paper ballots if DRE’s stop working.

  Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-701: Secretary of state can adopt special procedures for UOCAVA voters during an emergency.

Missouri

§ 115.291 R.S.Mo.: In a state of emergency, the secretary of state may allow absentee ballots to be transmitted by fax or electronic transmission.

  § 115.024 R.S.Mo.: The state supreme court will establish election panels for all districts affected by a disaster. Petitions to move polling places or reschedule elections will be heard by the district’s panel.

Montana

13-3-105, MCA: An election administrator can change the location of a polling place in case of an emergency.

  13-3-211, MCA: Emergency polling places are exempt from surveys and typical state requirements.

Nebraska

Secretary of State: The secretary of state’s office has developed Election Emergency Preparedness Guidelines that are distributed to local jurisdictions.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 293.2955: In case of a natural disaster or other emergency, a polling place may be used that does not accommodate voters with disabilities.

New Hampshire

N/A

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. § 19:8-3.1: Polling places must be accessible to those with disabilities unless an emergency causes such a polling place to be unavailable.

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-12-43: If a voting machine malfunctions, another shall replace it or the voter can mark a paper ballot

 

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-12-65: Counting and tallying ballots in an emergency shall be done in accordance with procedures set forth by the secretary of state.

  N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-5-18(c): The state must maintain a duplicate voter registration system in case of a disaster.

New York

Emergency Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2001, 2001 N.Y. S.N. 5791: After the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, the legislature passed this act to reschedule the 2001 primary election.

  NY CLS Elec § 3-108: If an emergency causes a less than 25 percent of registered voters to vote during an election, then there will be a second day of voting not more than 20 days after the original date.
  NY CLS Elec § 7-120: If voting machines malfunction or break down, the local board of elections must provide emergency paper ballots.
  NY CLS Elec § 16-100: The state court is vested with the power to determine questions of law and fact on the New York election code.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-750: The chief state elections official may exercise emergency powers to conduct an election in a district where the normal schedule for the election is disrupted by a disaster or armed conflict.

  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-1370: Secretary of state can apply special rules to allow military and overseas citizens to vote when typical federal and local laws wouldn't work in a state of emergency.

 

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-1145(a)(3): Voters do not have to abide by ID requirements if they are the victims of a natural disaster

  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-211(c): No declared candidate can use state funds to broadcast with their name creating personal gains except in the case of an emergency.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code, § 16.1-07-05: Voters can request an emergency absentee ballot through agent in case of an emergency

 

N.D. Cent. Code, § 16.1-07-34: Secretary of state can apply special rules to allow military and overseas citizens to vote when typical federal and local laws wouldn’t work in a state of emergency.

  N.D. Cent. Code, § 16.1-15-06: Except in cases of inclement weather, the election judge appointed shall deliver canvassing results to the auditor.

Ohio

ORC Ann. 3511.15: Secretary of state can apply special rules to allow military and overseas citizens to vote when typical federal and local laws wouldn’t work in a state of emergency.

  ORC Ann. 3501.18: In an emergency, the board of elections can move polling places or add polling places to a precinct.

 

ORC Ann. 3501.34: Police in each jurisdiction shall have a special force ready to respond to an emergency on election day and have one officer assigned to each polling place.

  ORC Ann. 5502.33: No agency for emergency management shall participate in political activity

Oklahoma

26 Okl. St. § 22-101: The secretary of the state election board is authorized to declare an election emergency for any area of the state if it becomes impossible to conduct elections using voting devices or if a national or local emergency makes substantial compliance with state and federal election laws impossible or unreasonable.

 

26 Okl. St. § 22-102: The secretary of the state election board shall be authorized to permit any changes to the ballot format necessary because of an election emergency.

 

26 Okl. St. § 22-104: In an emergency, the secretary of state shall prescribe procedures for counting ballots.

  26 Okl. St. § 22-105: In an emergency, the secretary of state shall prescribe procedures for a recount.26 Okl. St. § 22-106: In a declared election emergency, if a ballot or part of a ballot is not counted for any reason, a counter shall write said reason on the back of said ballot, and sign said statement
 

26 Okl. St. § 22-109:  In a declared election emergency when the ballots are to be counted manually, after the official count, the counters shall execute certificates of vote wherein the counters attest to the correctness of the totals.

 

26 Okl. St. § 22-110: In election emergency the ballot transfer box shall be sealed and transferred to the county election board.
  26 Okl. St. § 14-135: The secretary of state can apply special rules to allow military and overseas citizens to vote when typical federal and local laws wouldn’t work in a state of emergency.

Oregon

ORS § 254.471: The secretary may request the governor to extend the deadline for returning ballots, after consultation with affected county clerks, the secretary determines that it would be impossible or impracticable for electors to return ballots or for elections officials to tally ballots due to an emergency.

 

ORS § 249.005: The county clerk or secretary of state must accept petition signatures if the original copy was destroyed in a disaster and there is a copy of originals.

  ORS § 250.043: The county clerk or secretary of state must accept initiative or referendum signatures if the original copy was destroyed in a disaster and there is a copy of originals.
 

ORS § 246.710: A county governing body can declare a county wide election emergency if the county does not have money to conduct an election.

  ORS § 255.345(2): In the event of a natural disaster, special elections can be held on a different date than required.

Pennsylvania

25 P.S. § 2726: In an emergency, the location of a polling place can be moved unless there is a majority objection by registered electors of the district.

 

25 P.S. § 3046: The court of common pleas shall remain open during an election to make emergency decisions.

  25 P.S. § 3049: The state may suspend the destruction of paper ballots in case there is an emergency need for waste paper.

Rhode Island

N/A

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 7-7-910(b): The local election authority can change the location of polling places if they are inaccessible due to an emergency.

 

S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-351: If there is an emergency declared by the governor, candidates shall have 5 extra days to file their petitions.

  S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-1170: In an emergency, the governor may declare a new time and date for an election.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-2-4: The county auditor can extend polling hours in case of an emergency.

  S.D. Codified Laws § 12-2-8: Local election boards can delay an election (except for primary or general elections) for 1 week due to weather.
 

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-2-9: Counties must advertise the postponement of an election.

 

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-16-17: In an emergency, poll workers can administer sample ballots when precincts run out of ballots.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-3-101: County election commissions can move polling places in an emergency.

 

Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-6-302: County election commissions can move the location of absentee counting boards in an emergency.

  Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-5-209: County election commissions must maintain paper ballots for emergency use.

Texas

Tex. Elec. Code § 203.004:  If the election is to be held as an emergency election, it shall be held on a Tuesday or Saturday occurring on or after the 36th day and before the 50th day after the date the election is ordered.

  Tex. Elec. Code § 31.002: In an emergency, administrators do not have to use official forms to issue orders.

 

Tex. Elec. Code § 201.054: Emergency elections may have special filing deadlines.
  Tex. Elec. Code § 65.054: A registered voter can vote via a provisional ballot without a photo ID if it was lost due to a natural disaster within 45 days of when the ballot was cast.
 

Tex. Elec. Code § 129.056: The general custodian of election records shall create a contingency plan for addressing direct recording electronic voting machine failure.

 

Tex. Elec. Code § 41.0011:  If the governor determines that an emergency warrants holding a special election before the appropriate uniform election date, the election may be held on an earlier nonuniform date.

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 20A-1-308: During a declared emergency, the lieutenant governor may designate a method, time, or location for, or relating to voting on election day, early voting, transmittal of absentee or UOCAVA votes, counting of absentee or UOCAVA votes or canvassing.

  Utah Code Ann. § 20A-1-204: If there is a pending disaster, local political bodies can decide to conduct local elections on a date other than those prescribed by the legislature.

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-603.1: In a state of emergency, the governor may postpone an election by executive order in areas affected by the emergency to a date not 14 days from the original date of the election. If a local governing body determines that a longer postponement is required, it may petition a three-judge panel of the Virginia Supreme Court. Only those persons duly registered to vote as of the original date of the election shall be entitled to vote in the rescheduled election. Any ballots already cast will be counted, but ballots that were destroyed can be recast by voters.

 

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-310: If an emergency makes a polling place unusable or inaccessible, the electoral board or the general registrar shall provide an alternative polling place and give notice of the change in polling place.

 

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-604.2: The electoral board can alter the prohibited area outside of a polling place if the standard distance endangers citizens due to an emergency.

  Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-638: In the case of an emergency that makes a polling place unusable or inaccessible, voting or counting machines may be removed to an alternative polling place.
  Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-713: In an emergency, the Commissioner of Elections shall have the authority to designate alternative methods and procedures to handle applications for absentee ballots and absentee ballots.

Vermont

17 V.S.A. § 2502(c)(2): A municipality may change the location of a polling place less than 30 days prior to an election only in cases of emergency.

Washington

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 38.52.030: The director shall maintain a copy of the continuity of operations plan for election operations for each county that has a plan available.

Wisconsin

Contingency Planning and Election System Security Report: There are no statutes, but the state election board created a report advising local authorities on how to respond to emergencies and security threats.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 3-1A-6: The Secretary of State shall also have the power, after consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, to implement emergency procedures and rules to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a valid ballot and to uphold the integrity of an election.

  W. Va. Code § 3-1-26: The commissioners of elections must procure new ballots or ballot boxes if the originals are destroyed.
  W. Va. Code § 3-1-7: In the case of an emergency, the county commission may make the precinct change no later than sixty days prior to an election.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-2-121: The secretary of state shall have the authority to issue directives to county election officers necessary to ensure the proper conduct of elections, including voter registration and elector participation when there is a declared natural disaster or other impending or declared emergency which interferes with an election.

 

Table 2: Gubernatorial Role in Election Emergencies

State

Governor can suspend statutes or regulations and issue orders.

Governor can suspend regulatory statutes prescribing the conduct of state business and issue orders.

Governor can suspend rules and regulations and issue orders.

Governor can modify an election.

Alabama

Code of Ala. § 31-9-13

X

 

 

 

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 26.23.020(g)(1)

 

X

 

 

Arizona

A.R.S. § 16-543

 

X

 

 

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 12-75-114(e)(1)

 

X

 

 

California

Cal Gov Code § 8571

X

 

 

 

Colorado

C.R.S. 24-33.5-704(7)(a)

 

X

 

 

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 28-9(b)(1)

X

 

 

 

Delaware

20 Del. C. § 3116(a)(2)

 

X

 

 

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 252.36(5)(a)

Fla. Stat. § 101.733

 

X

 

X

Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 38-3-51(d)(1)

 

X

 

 

Hawaii

HRS § 127A-13(a)(3)

X

 

 

 

Idaho

Idaho Code § 46-1008(5)(a)

 

 

X

 

Illinois

20 ILCS 3305/7(a)

10 ILCS 5/20-25

 

X

 

X

Indiana

Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 10-14-3-12(d)(1)

 

X

 

 

Iowa

Iowa Code § 29C.6(6)

 

X

 

 

Kansas

K.S.A. § 48-925(c)(1)

 

X

 

 

Kentucky

KRS § 39A.100(1)(l)

 

 

 

X

Louisiana

La. R.S. § 29:766(D)(1)

La. R.S. § 18:401.1

 

X

 

X

Maine

37-B M.R.S. § 742(c)(1)

X

 

 

 

Maryland

Md. PUBLIC SAFETY Code Ann. § 14-107(d)(1)(i):

X

 

 

 

Massachusetts

ALM Spec L ch. S31, § 8A

X

 

 

 

Michigan

MCLS § 30.405(1)(a)

 

X

 

 

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 12.32

 

 

X

 

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 33-15-11(c)(1)

 

X

 

 

Missouri

§ 44.022 R.S.Mo.

 

 

X

 

Montana

10-3-104, MCA(2)(a)

 

X

 

 

Nebraska

R.R.S. Neb. § 81-829.40(6)(a)

 

X

 

 

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 414.070(6)

X [1]

 

 

 

New Hampshire

RSA 4:47

 

 

X

 

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. § App.A:9-51(a)

 

 

X [2]

 

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 12-10-4

X

 

 

 

New York

NY CLS Exec § 29-a

X

 

 

 

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 166A-19.30(b)(4)

 

 

X

 

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code, § 37-17.1-05(6)(a)

 

X

 

 

Ohio [3]

ORC Ann. 5502.22

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma

63 Okl. St. § 6403(b)(1)

 

X

 

 

Oregon

ORS § 401.168(2)

ORS § 254.471

 

 

X

X

Pennsylvania

35 Pa.C.S. § 7301

 

X

 

 

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 30-15-9(e)(1)

 

X

 

 

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 25-1-440(a)(3

S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-1170

 

 

X

X

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 34-48A-5

 

 

X

 

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 58-2-107(e)(1)

X

 

 

 

Texas

Tex. Gov’t Code § 418.016

Tex. Elec. Code § 41.0011

 

X

 

X

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 53-2a-209:

X

 

 

 

Vermont

20 V.S.A. § 9

 

 

X

 

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 44-146.17

Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-603.1

 

 

X

X

Washington

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 43.06.220

X [4]

 

 

 

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 15-5-6(c)(7)

 

X

 

 

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 323.14(4)

X [5]

 

 

 

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 19-13-104

 

 

X

 

 

[1] To perform and exercise such other functions, powers and duties as are necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.” Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 414.070(6). Although this section does not explicitly grant the governor authority to suspend a statute, it is possible the governor could suspend statutes if the safey of the civilian population depend on suspending a statute.

[2] In a state of emergency, the governor may assume control of emergency management operations if the emergency is beyond the capabilities of local authorities. N.J. Stat. § App.A:9-51(a). This statute may not fall perfectly in the category allowing for a governor to suspend regulations, but local emergency responses—which the governor can assume control over—are likely governed by regulation.

[3] Ohio created emergency management agencies that are to work directly with the governor in a state of emergency.

[4] In a state of emergency, the governor can issue orders suspending the statutes relating to certain categories of regulations, but none pertaining to elections.

[5] “The emergency power of the governing body conferred under s. 323.11 includes the general authority to order, by ordinance or resolution, whatever is necessary and expedient for the health, safety, protection, and welfare of persons and property within the local unit of government in the emergency.” Wis. Stat. § 323.14(4). Although this section does not explicitly grant the governor authority to suspend a statute, it is possible the governor could suspend statutes if the safety of the civilians or property in the affected area depended on suspending the statute.

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