If polling places along the East Coast are without power on Election Day, an Omaha company faces a powerful test. With much of the coast bracing for damage and prolonged power outages from the storm called Sandy, election officials and providers of voting equipment, including Omaha-based Electronic Systems & Software, spent Monday hashing out contingency plans, backup contingency plans and backup-backup contingency plans in case polling places remain without power on Nov. 6.
ES&S, the nation’s largest provider of voting equipment and software, has contracts with counties in states all along the Eastern Seaboard, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Overall, the company will collect, process and report ballots from 4,000 counties in 41 states, including in Nebraska and Iowa. ES&S has 450 employees, and more than half of them are in the Omaha headquarters at 11208 John Galt Blvd.
As of Monday evening, even before Sandy made landfall, more than 600,000 residents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were without power, the New York Times reported. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned residents to be prepared for it to take eight to 10 days for power to be restored in some locations. So why not reschedule the election for a day other than Nov. 6?
That would require an act of Congress, which isn’t in session. In the unlikely event that Congress would reconvene, the lawmakers, under the Presidential Election Day Act of 1845, would need to pass a law changing the date of the election or a constitutional amendment, said Michael W. Combs, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who specializes in constitutional law. “I know this much: It would be very difficult to have the election moved,” Combs said Monday.