America’s longstanding practice of holding elections on the first Tuesday after November 1 has faced mounting criticism in recent years, due mostly to its outdated rationale and negative impact on low-income people. But there might be another reason to change the date—and it’s playing out in North Carolina.
As the Raleigh-based News & Observer reports, thousands of state residents have been displaced by Hurricane Florence and the catastrophic flooding in its wake. For those people, it may now be much harder to meet their voter registration deadline, vote in person, or meet absentee ballot requirements in time for the election. The NAACP is thus asking the state to extend the voter registration deadline from October 12 to October 17.
This is “the second election cycle in a row in which a hurricane has had the potential to disrupt voting in the state,” the News & Observer noted. After Hurricane Matthew displaced thousands of North Carolinians in 2016, Democrats had to file an emergency lawsuit to get the voter registration deadline extended for affected counties.
There’s no way to weatherproof elections, but holding them in early November is tempting fate, at least on the Eastern Seaboard. Peak hurricane season falls between early August and mid-October, so there’s the chance that, as in the Carolinas this year, coastal Atlantic communities will be recovering from a powerful hurricane. Hurricane season is also growing longer according to some analyses, and the rainstorms within them growing stronger.
Holding elections on Tuesdays makes little sense. Holding them in early November might be increasingly unwise, too.