Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ballots and Blizzards

Ballots and Blizzards

As the Christmas 2009 ice storm bears down on us, I wonder if the Neanderthals were smarter than us. If they got hit with three inches of ice, they didn't try to travel to the land of their ancestors just because it happened to be solstice. They just stayed in the cave by the fire (if you don't have electricty, you don't have a blackout so you don't have a problem).

But we modern, "advanced" humans govern ourselves by the clock and the calendar, rushing off in the worst possible weather to punch a clock or meet a calendar date.

Which brings me to the subject of the January 19 election.

I've been asked more than once: "what happens if we have a blizzard on election day?" I answer: "We vote." Iowa law has some very limited emergency provisions for closing or moving polling places on Election Day (we had a tornado warning in the `06 primary, and Linn County had a flash flood once), but there are no provisions for completely postponing the election.

The question came up during the 2001 school election, held on... September 11. School board results were not the top story on the news hat night. (New York law is different and they happened to be having a primary for mayor that day. It got pushed back two weeks. There were four polling places in the twin towers themselves...)

But the one we locals remember was Bob Dvorsky's state senate special in February 1994. Sixteen inches of snow after 3 p.m. That was before I had my present job, so I was volunteering. Went to give a voter a ride to the polls a little after 3, and the round trip took me an hour and a half. I got back to HQ and was pretty much physically restrained from driving or calling any more. And, of course, in the end that one was much closer than it would have been without the snow, and early votes were a huuuuge part of the Democratic edge.

Back in the Kerry-Bush presidential election, I voted on day one. A non-political friend asked me, "how can you have your mind made up already?" I replied, how can you not?" The supervisor special is one of those kinds of elections between polar opposites. Republicans are already on the record saying they're hoping for a low-turnout win. But if your vote's in the bank, you may avoid being in a snowbank on Election day.

No comments: