Minnesota’s Elections Emergency Planning Task Force in December released a report that includes legislative proposals for statewide and local preparedness and response in the event of unanticipated large-scale incidents, such as a crippling snowstorm or a terrorist attack, that could impede voters’ ability to cast ballots on Election Day.
At the state level, the task force recommended legislation to grant the governor, in conjunction with another state official, the authority to postpone Election Day; modify absentee ballot procedures, including adjusting deadlines and providing alternative means for submission; expand opportunities for overseas voting; and extend polling place hours.
For local jurisdictions, the report recommended that the state Legislature give municipal officials increased power to relocate or consolidate polling sites and expand polling hours and to tailor their emergency action plans to local needs in accordance with statewide guidelines.
Other states and federal agencies have developed similar plans:
- In 2008, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board released a report detailing selected contingency plans that local jurisdictions across the country have used to respond to incidents ranging from Hurricane Katrina to bomb threats.
- After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the National Association of Secretaries of State formed the NASS Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for Elections to support states in developing plans to ensure the integrity of elections in an emergency.
- This month’s Election Assistance Commission roundtable discussed best practices for emergency-related risk mitigation.
Sean Greene is the project director and Keara Castaldo is a research associate for election initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.