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Elections and emergencies

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By Merilee Dannemann

A snowstorm hit northern Rio Arriba County and other northern New Mexico communities on Election Day, 1986, affecting voter turnout.  Rio Arriba is a Democratic stronghold. Republican Garrey Carruthers won the governorship, which was expected and probably not changed by the weather. I happened to be watching the attorney general race, and the snowstorm might have been the factor that gave Republican Hal Stratton the edge over Democrat Bob McNeill.  Those are the breaks.  
Early voting has been instituted since then.  Voters in storm-prone mountain communities can choose to vote early, and campaigns can make extra efforts to encourage them to.  But nobody gets a do-over.
What to do when a storm disrupts an election became a hot topic a few weeks ago as Superstorm Sandy barrelled through several eastern states.  You thought about it, didn’t you?  Would the storm pass, would the power be restored, would polling places be open and would voters be able to get to them?  If not, what would the alternatives be, and who had the power to make those decisions?


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