Are states prepared to deal with natural disasters during elections? A new report out Wednesday says while progress has been made, there’s room for improvement. With much of the East Coast facing the threat of another serious winter storm, the National Association of Secretaries of State is unveiling a report that looks at the current state of emergency preparedness of the nation’s elections rules, and makes recommendations for states to better prepare for the unexpected. Spurred by the landfall of Hurricane Sandy days before the November 2012 election, NASS formed a task force of secretaries of state and elections officials from 24 states last January to assess what could be done in such cases. The task force will present their findings Thursday to elections officials from around the country. The group found that only 12 of the 37 states that responded to its survey have laws dealing with postponing an election, and only 11 require contingency planning by law. Nevertheless, a majority of states have proactively developed such plans, they found.
The task force recommended that states coordinate its agencies and offices to plan for emergency situations during elections, that they work with local officials to develop procedures in case of such situations, that they put together a communications plan that also accounts for possible power outages or other disruptions, that they come up with ways to get information to individual voters about any changes from polling place locations to absentee ballot rules and that they look at other states’ policies for examples.
The task force also noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in addition to being able to help in cases of presidential emergency disaster declarations, offers online training courses in emergency management. The report recommends local officials take advantage of the FEMA training.