Election would go on if disaster hit Indiana

2012-11-02T18:30:00Z 2012-11-04T00:19:05Z Election would go on if disaster hit IndianaDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
November 02, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The images of houses under water in New York and New Jersey because of Superstorm Sandy call to mind the thousands of Northwest Indiana homes flooded in 2008 following a major storm.

But what would happen if the region were flooded on Election Day, or another part of Indiana were hit by a blizzard, tornado, earthquake or any other natural or man-made disaster, and voting was dangerous or impossible?

For the most part, the election must go on.

"We have no state law that permits canceling or rescheduling," said Brad King, co-director of the Indiana Election Division. "The polls will be open if they physically can be."

King explained that if a disaster, such as a flood or tornado, happens two or more days prior to Election Day, the county executive, which is the three-member board of commissioners, can relocate polling places to an unaffected area.

Within two days of Election Day, or even on Election Day as in the case of fire at a voting site, the county election board can vote unanimously to move a polling place, King said. A judge also can order a polling place remain open after the 6 p.m. closing time if voting is disrupted. 

"We've never faced a situation where voting is absolutely impossible everywhere within an election district," King said. "We have mercifully been spared that occurrence."

Even in the Northeast, where many areas still are without power following Sandy, voting will go on Tuesday, though turnout is expected to be below normal. Officials have relocated polling places and are encouraging residents to vote early, if possible. 

Marie Eisenstein, associate professor of political science at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, said the effect of the turnout drop because of Sandy is hard to gauge.

"Conventional wisdom suggests that decreased voter turnout benefits Republicans," Eisenstein said. "However, other research suggests those most likely to stay home on Election Day are individuals who believe their candidate is likely to lose."

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson this week issued an emergency preparedness guide that recommends steps county officials administering elections should take in nearly every conceivable emergency circumstance, including fire, severe weather, utility disruption, bomb threat, hazardous material spills and others.

"We must be prepared for any event, whether it be a natural or man-made disaster, so we can promptly and appropriately respond to any situation which might disrupt voting," Lawson said.

In each situation, the guide recommends officials see to the safety of every person in the polling place before securing ballots and other election materials.

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Lake County Board of Elections and Registration
2293 N. Main Street
Crown Point, IN 46302
(219) 755-3795

Porter County Voters Registration
155 Indiana Avenue
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(219) 465-3484

Dates and Times

Primary Election: May 6, 2014
Election: Nov. 4, 2014
Poll hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Resources

Illinois: Check registration, polling locations

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Indiana: Check registration, polling locations

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