State Election Laws: Overview of Statutes Regarding Emergency Election Postponement Within the State Page: 2 of 6
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Federal law establishes the date of the general presidential election as the Tuesday
following the first Monday in November every four years.3 In 2004, in accordance with
the federal law, the date of the general presidential election is November 2.4 However,
due to the possibility of an emergency or disaster, including the threat of a terrorist attack,
occurring immediately before or during a scheduled election, some states have enacted
statutes providing for the temporary postponement of certain elections in their respective
states, precincts, districts, or counties. In view of the federal law establishing the date
of choosing presidential electors, issues may emerge regarding how state laws authorizing
postponement of the general presidential election can be reconciled with the federal
statute. For discussion of such broader legal issues, see CRS Report RL32623,
Postponement and Rescheduling of Elections to Federal Office, by Jack Maskell.
Summary of State Statutes Regarding Emergency Election
Postponement Within the State
The following summarizes state laws that provide a mechanism for the postponement
of certain elections. In the event of emergencies or disasters, it appears that these laws
might provide for the postponement of the general presidential election within the
respective state, its precincts, districts or counties:
Florida: The governor may, upon issuing an executive order declaring a state of
emergency or impending emergency, suspend or delay any election. The rescheduled
election must be held within 10 days after the date of the delayed election or as soon as
practicable thereafter. FLA. STAT. 101.101.733 (2004).
Georgia: In the event the governor declares that a state of emergency or disaster exists
pursuant to state law or a federal agency declares that a state of emergency or disaster
exists, the secretary of state is authorized to postpone the date of any election in the
affected area. The secretary of state shall exercise the powers granted by this section of
law carefully, and any such postponement or extension shall not exceed 45 days. GA.
CODE ANN. 21-2-50.1 (2004).
3 The U.S. Constitution provides, "The Congress may determine the time of chusing the electors,
and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the
United States." U.S. CONST. ART. II, 1. Accordingly, Congress enacted the federal statute
establishing the date of the presidential election: "The electors of President and Vice President
shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in
every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President." 3 U.S.C. 1.
The Constitution further establishes January 20 at noon as the date and time that a presidential
term begins and ends: "The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the
20th day of January ... and the terms of their successors shall then begin." U.S.CoNST. AMEND.
4 On the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, in accordance with federal law and
the U.S. Constitution, voters in each state choose electors for the President and Vice President
equal to the number of the state's U.S. Senators and Representatives in Congress. U.S. CONST.
ART. II, 1; AMEND. XII. In accordance with the Twenty-third Amendment, the District of
Columbia chooses three electors.
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State Election Laws: Overview of Statutes Regarding Emergency Election Postponement Within the State, report, October 26, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815770/m1/2/: accessed May 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.