Dealing with Disaster: Analyzing the Emergency Constitutions of the U.S. States

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Christian Bjørnskov & Stefan Voigt

The study of constitutional emergency provisions remains in its infancy. We present the first overview and analysis of how specific emergency provisions vary across the fifty U.S. state constitutions. The emergency provisions vary considerably across states with the Texas Constitution exhibiting the most limited provisions and Georgia the most expansive ones. A cluster analysis shows support for dividing the U.S. constitutions into six familiesand reveals the Texas Constitution as substantially different from the rest. We explore whether these constitutional choices may have been affected by disaster risk, prevailing ideology, state wealth, and other factors for which historical data exist. We provide tentative evidence showing that emergency provisions have a significant effect on both the number of fatalities as well as on the damage suffered in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Clearly, therefore, the paper has implications for constitutional policy.

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