Will East Coast Recovery from Sandy Impact Voter Turnout?
Hurricane Sandy has killed more than 70 people and caused tens of billions of dollars of damage. The cleanup will take weeks in some of the hardest-hit regions, areas where people are likely and understandably focused on their own recovery from one of the worst storms to hit the region in 100 years.
Yet, despite this disaster, Tuesday, Nov. 6, is Election Day. The country will decide the fate of the U.S. House of Representatives, a third of the U.S. Senate and the White House. On the state level, voters in 13 states will select governors, and voters across the country will fill 5,959 seats in state legislatures.
So how will the impact of this storm affect turnout next Tuesday?
What may be more important is how the storm has already affected turnout. Many states now use some form of early voting to reduce crowding on Election Day, a process that has been hindered by Sandy’s wrath. Deadlines for filing absentee ballots and registering to vote also could be affected.
According to Jim Malewitz of Stateline, early voting in Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., have been affected by the storm. The three states and Washington, D.C., had no early voting on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday most were back open to at least an abbreviated schedule, and Maryland and D.C. have extended early voting hours. These states all say Election Day polling will proceed as normal.
Several states offer last-minute absentee ballot filing and voter registration, including same-day registration. Pennsylvania has extended its absentee ballot deadline through Friday, but the massive power outages affecting the state could still be a problem on Election Day, according to Ann Gerhart of The Washington Post. Virginia also has extended its absentee ballot deadline through Saturday.
The effect Sandy will have in the states hit hardest by the storm—Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York—remains unclear. Connecticut has extended in-person voter registration through today, but power outages could cause last-minute changes to polling locations. New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York have not made announcements about possible changes yet.
For more information about potential voting changes, check with your state’s board of elections or secretary of state.