Who Won’t Get to Vote Because of the Hurricane?
How will Hurricane Sandy affect the election? In the past day or so, this has been a hot topic. With just a week to go, any little change now could have monumental impacts on our nation’s future. From Mitt Romney’s quote about axing FEMA to how the government’s response to the storm could impact voters’ choice (think Bush after Hurricane Katrina) to the candidates’ changes in campaign scheduling, Sandy’s impact has been felt long before it hit the coast.
- In Maryland, early voting was cancelled by executive order on Monday and Tuesday (and later extended from Thursday to Friday, to make up some of the days).
- In DC, the elections board canceled early voting, also for Monday and Tuesday, though without expanding the early voting period.
- In North Carolina, early voting locations in three counties were closed Saturday, as well as in one county on Sunday and through Monday.
- In Virginia, 21 voting offices were closed Monday, and one has been announced closed Tuesday, though more will likely close as the storm hits.
Of course, some of these states aren’t going to have that much of an impact on the election (DC, for example, which isn’t even a state, or Maryland, which is about as blue as it gets). But in others, the lack of early voting could significantly hurt the president. Virginia, for example, is an important swing state, as is North Carolina. If early voting is curtailed, people who had planned to vote early might just not vote; on the other hand, since the storm will probably be passed by Tuesday, those who vote on the day of will face fewer, if any, obstacles.
Unfortunately for President Obama, those who typically vote early are minorities — who tend to vote Democrat. Just how big is the early-voting gap? Fairly big, in fact: African-Americans are 26 times more likely to vote early than in person in national elections; in 2008 in North Carolina (one of the states affected by Sandy), 22 percent of Republicans voters voted early, compared to 33 percent of Democratic voters; 24 percent of white voters turned out, compared to 36 percent of African American voters. If these voters are prevented from voting by Hurricane Sandy, it could make the race in a couple of swing states a bit tighter, and might be enough to tip the balance in Romney’s favor. And, as we all know, just one or two swing states could have a very big impact on the outcome of this election.
Of course, there are other factors at play. If Obama handles the storm well, he will look calm, in control and very presidential; if he flubs the response, he’ll look ineffectual. The pause in swing-state campaigning could hurt either candidate, though it would probably be worse for Romney. And some analysts are skeptical that Sandy will have any real effect on the election. Still, if I were the president, I’d be watching the news very closely right about now.
Photo: DVIDSHUB via Flickr