Hurricane Sandy: Will the storm impact the election?

Oct. 30, 2012

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Beverly Clark
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As the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on the East Coast, many are looking ahead to determine what effect the storm may have on Election Day Nov. 6. Both President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney canceled campaign events, multiple states stopped early voting, and the extent of the damage and when all power will be restored is unknown. But despite the chaos, Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie says that by law the election must go on.

"If there are massive power outages, given the circumstances, states will do everything they can to make sure that polling sites get their power restored first," says Gillespie. "I could see some early voting sites converting to massive election day polling places to consolidate polling locations.  This will no doubt inconvenience voters and drive down turnout, but I don't see what else could be done in such a scenario."

But, will the storm and its aftermath influence the elections by steering voters' focus away from the polls to more pressing, domestic needs? Gillespie says it's a very real possibility. 

"In the presidential race, Virginia will likely be spared compared to states to her immediate north, so they may be back to normal on Tuesday," she explains. "Whether New Hampshire will be affected is a larger question.  The other states, with the exception of perhaps Pennsylvania, weren't in play so depressed turnout probably won't affect the ultimate presidential winners in those states. Of course, if President Obama botches the handling of this disaster, it will also cost him at the polls."