A New Jersey voter walks to the Atlantic Highlands Emergency Services Building to vote as power outages from Superstorm Sandy forced the town to condense all the districts into one location, Nov. 6, 2012.
Despite his house still not having any power, New York University senior and Staten Island, N.Y., native Matthew Berenbaum, 21, will be voting today.
“There are people who’ve lost power, and there are still problems with public transit,” he said, but he’s not too worried about voter turnout. “Officials made a lot of effort so that everyone has the opportunity to vote.”
Although experts don’t think Hurricane Sandy will affect voter turnout to the point that it could sway the election, there are concerns that voters could face barriers to casting their ballots.
Drexel University’s political expert William Rosenberg explained that one of the biggest issues facing voters this election has to do with the equipment.
“Officials need to prepare for Election Day,” he said. “They need to move equipment and test it to make sure it works properly.” Much of this testing could be affected because there’s no power.
Furthermore, if the machines are not working properly, voters would have to resort to casting provisional ballots. Rosenberg explained that, since polling places generally don’t have many provisional ballots, there could be complications in collecting voter data.
Another issue is that, for some, this election may seem less important because they are distracted by other problems caused by Sandy, such as displacement and property damage.
Brooklyn College junior and Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Mariaisabel Zweig, 19, explained that the election has not been a major topic of conversation over the past week.
“A lot of my friends haven’t been talking as much about the election since the hurricane,” she said.
“There are some people and facilities that are still without power,” Rosenberg said. “The government needs to make modifications.”
One of these modifications was an order passed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday saying voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy can cast ballots at any polling station in New York State. Another passed by Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey will allow voters to cast ballots via fax and email.
State University of New York at New Paltz dean and communications and marketing expert Gerald Benjamin sees another issue with voting this election cycle — polling places changing location.
“There will be complaints that people couldn’t find polling places,” he said. “Some places are accommodating by allowing late absentee voting.”
Although Hurricane Sandy and its timing are both unusual, both experts agree the electoral vote should not be affected.
New York, for instance, has been blue for many years. So even if a disproportionate amount of Democrats were affected — Benjamin explained that New York City, which is very liberal, and Long Island, which is more right of center, were hit hardest — the margins would remain the same.
“If there’s a problem, it would raise questions of electoral integrity,” said Rosenberg. He added that this election the popular vote might not match the electoral vote because of a decrease in voter turnout.
But he also pointed out that 30-40% of voters participated in early voting. Early voting is an option in 31 states. These votes won’t be affected by the storm.
Weather has been proven to affect voter turnout. One study found that each inch of rain drove turnout down by 1%, while each inch of snow decreased it by 0.5%. When weather conditions are not favorable, they tend to have a disproportionately negative impact on Democratic candidates by a margin of 2.5%. This was enough to sway the electoral vote in North Carolina in 1992 and Florida in 2000.
Most states are expected to have mild weather today. However, some of the swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire, may encounter some snow.
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