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How Will We Vote If There's A Disaster On Election Day?

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In a briefing after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on Tuesday, a reporter asked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie the question that was probably on many minds: What about Election Day?  "It doesn't matter a lick to me at the moment,” Christie responded. “I've got bigger fish to fry." Theoretically, a week will give governments enough time to clear roads and restore power so voting is possible next Tuesday. But if Sandy had hit a week later, how would people have voted?

Experts tell NPR that there is no contingency plan or law that dictates what should happen if a major natural disaster strikes on Election Day. Many states have provisions that focus on local effects—like moving polling places to neighboring precincts—that could conceivably be used to reschedule an election. But according to the Congressional Research Service, “The Constitution does not provide in express language any current authority for a federal official or institution to ‘postpone’ an election for federal office.”

Postponing the vote, whether in a single city, state or across multiple states, would likely skew the results of a national election. And in the event of a huge natural disaster, not only will it be difficult for voters to actually traverse roads in order to vote, but state and local officials will have many other priorities than ensuring that voting centers remain open and properly staffed.

There are some options that could take the pressure off, like early voting. But many states don’t offer in-person early voting, which has become its own political issue (some states are trying to discourage the practice). And, says North Dakota Senator Ray Holmberg, “Elected officials are reluctant to take on the task of canceling the election and being accused of doing that for partisan purposes.”

While it would undoubtedly be smarter to have a plan in place should an event like Sandy occur on or just before Election Day, Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials, isn’t hopeful that we’ll get one. "We'll ignore it until it happens, and when it happens, we'll figure it out," he told NPR. "It's not the best way to go about doing something like this." Bottom line: In the event of an Election Day disaster, officials will be left scrambling.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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