Tales from the Trail

Could Sandy blow away the election? Don’t hold your breath

Deadly Superstorm Sandy left millions of Americans snowed in, flooded out or stranded without power – and the federal government itself in Washington closed – just a week before voters across the country head to the polls. But if anyone is wondering whether Election Day will be put off, the answer is almost certainly no.

Local U.S. elections have been postponed before – in one relatively recent example, New York put off voting that had been set for Sept. 11, 2001, because of the attacks on the country that day. But presidential balloting has always gone on, even during the Civil War in 1864 (President Abraham Lincoln was re-elected).

Federal law mandates that the national vote must take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four years.

Some sources say a state might have the authority to put off voting in a national election within its border in case of a terrorist act or natural disaster. But election law experts said that might not be legal, and would definitely be disruptive, especially in a close election like this year’s and more so in a swing state like Virginia, where two days of early voting have already been cancelled because of Sandy. Changing the federal law – through an act of Congress – is extremely unlikely, given the country’s bitter partisan divisions in the midst of a tightly contested election.

“I feel pretty safe in saying the likelihood of an amendment of this federal statute is right around zero,” said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert on election law and voting rights.

A battleground is a battleground is a battleground – or is it?

It isn’t really surprising that there are widely varying theories for the best way to win the battleground states – those considered neither firmly Democratic nor Republican – in the Nov. 6 election. After all, if they were easy to win, they wouldn’t be battlegrounds.

But what is surprising is the extent of the disagreement over which should be defined as battlegrounds – or swing states, toss-ups or “purple” (as in something between Republican red and Democratic blue).

A new study by the University of Minnesota found that news outlets that publish election maps vary widely in their assessments of which states are up for grabs in 2012.

Blunt says to keep an eye on Virginia

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican who is Mitt Romney’s point person in Congress, doesn’t think Ohio or Florida will be the main states to watch on election night. He will have his eyes on Virginia.

In an interview at the annual Reuters Washington Summit, Blunt was asked which state was the one to monitor in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election between President Barack Obama and Romney.

“Virginia,” he said. “If I was watching one state on election night, it would be a state I’d [watch].”

Obama campaign reaches out in hard-fought states

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO – U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, which has already proven its fund-raising prowess on its own behalf, is sharing the wealth. The campaign launched a joint fundraising committee to benefit the Democratic Party in the all-important “swing states,” where voting is expected to be close next year, and costs are expected to be high.

The new “Swing State Victory Fund” is the campaign’s second joint account, according to the Federal Election Commission. The fund will help the campaign and state parties in battleground states to fill their coffers as they push to elect. The states connected with the joint account are: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

An individual could contribute a maximum of $10,000 to each state party per calendar year, in addition to the $2,500 maximum that can be donated to a candidate during the primary and the general election seasons, respectively, according to the FEC.