Counterparties: Sandy Tuesday

By Felix Salmon
October 30, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy has killed at least 30 people, and caused somewhere north of $10 billion in economic damages. Will the next casualty be the US general election, which is scheduled to take place next Tuesday?

As Ben Jacobs points out, “there is no precedent whatsoever for a natural disaster of this scale before a federal election”, and the result could be a major constitutional crisis. Voting is organized on a state-by-state basis, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, for one, says he’s got “much bigger fish to fry” right now than worrying about whether he’s going to be able to get his state’s hurricane-struck population to the polls this time next week. (He’s absolutely right about that, as these pictures from Atlantic City testify.)

If you’re wondering why exactly US elections are scheduled for Tuesdays in November, the most basic answer is “no good reason”. The most detailed response is rooted in what now seems like a historical oddity: in 1845, Congress needed to pick a voting day that allowed farmers a day to travel each way to the country seat to vote without missing any religious services or market day (Wednesday). Tuesday was the only option left.

How to alter that archaic decision in the face of disaster is unclear. A 2007 study by the bipartisan Election Assistance Commission provides suggests looking at “existing State law to determine if the Governor has the power to cancel an election or designate alternative methods for distribution of ballots”. And the Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner has also dug up a 2004 Congressional report stating that “there is also no federal law which currently provides express authority to ‘postpone’ an election”, although states might be allowed to postpone voting under “exigent circumstances”.

Which raises the possibility, in this very close election year, that both Obama and Romney will fail to get 270 electoral votes on Tuesday, and will have to wait some unknown amount of time before New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes finally get added — to the Obama tally, of course. – Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

Data Points
Sandy estimated to cause $5-10 billion in insured losses and $10-20 billion in economic losses – Reuters

Economy
The broken window fallacy: why natural disasters don’t stimulate the economy – Acton Institute
Why I Don’t Love Frederic Bastiat – Matt Yglesias

Disgusting
The real identity of last night’s Twitter villian, @ComfortablySmug – FWD

Politicking
Romney refuses to comment on plans to eliminate FEMA, 14 times – Gothamist

Central Banking
How the Fed responded to Sandy – John Carney

Yikes
Study: NYC’s subways could take between 21 days and several months to be restored – Quartz

Defenestrations
Apple exec responsible for maps flop on his way out – LAT

Bank Bloodletting
UBS humanely communicates some of 10,000 job cuts by deactivating office IDs – FT

Rebuttals
Look closely at the “prosperity index” – rising inequality is more important than debt – Dan Drezner

Dubious Conclusions
$16-30 trillion? Vague assumptions drive industry estimates of regulatory costs – Peter Eavis

Random
BofA employee background check reveals unpaid omelet bill from 1998 – Consumerist

Quotable
“‘Shut up, nerd’ is not an argument.” – American Conservative

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