What if Hurricane Sandy had arrived eight days later? What would have happened to the election? If a hurricane like Sandy coincided with a presidential election, obviously, millions of people would be unable to vote. Nobody could then say for sure who won the White House, not to mention state and local races. In some states, like California, state law allows the Governor to declare an emergency and reschedule an election (though it is unclear to me whether or how state law supersedes the timetable for presidential elections). The Federal law that schedules presidential elections (3 USC § 1), however, contains no similar provision — rescheduling a presidential election during an emergency would require new legislation. This is a problem.
Hurricane Sandy was not a one-off event. Not a once-in-a-lifetime event. She was a gentle ping from Mother Nature to say, 'hello there, you'd better get accustomed to violent weather on a warmer planet.' It's only reasonable, and prudent, to think that future Frankenstorms in late fall, along the eastern seaboard, will — not 'might' but will — become much, much worse.
As a minimum response to Hurricane Sandy Congress should pass legislation that gives the president emergency authority to reschedule national elections. To be cynical, this time around probably no law will be enacted. But the first time a hurricane shuts down a presidential election we will look awfully stupid if we aren't prepared for the possibility.