Emory Law Journal


Our electoral system is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other calamities that can render polling places inaccessible, trigger mass evacuations, or disrupt governmental operations to the point that conducting an election becomes impracticable. Many states lack ¿election emergency¿ laws that empower officials to adequately respond to these crises. As a result, courts are frequently called upon to adjudicate the consequences of election emergencies as a matter of constitutional law, often applying vague, subjective, ad hoc standards in rushed, politically charged proceedings. This Article examines the legal steps various government actors took in response to terrorist attacks and natural disasters that disrupted impending or ongoing elections throughout the early twenty-first century, including the September 11 attacks on New York City, Hurricane Katrina¿s destruction of New Orleans, Hurricane Sandy¿s devastation of New Jersey and New York, and Hurricane Matthew¿s impact along the southeastern United States. It then analyzes the constitutional issues that such election emergencies raise.