Election officials were ordering generators, moving voting locations and figuring out how to transport poll workers displaced from coastal areas as Tuesday’s presidential election became the latest challenge for states whacked by Superstorm Sandy.
The storm, which devastated East Coast communities with power outages, flooding and snow, had already disrupted early voting in parts of Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina. With less than a week to go before the general election, officials in the hardest-hit states were scrambling to ensure orderly and fair balloting in places still dark or under water.
Few expected the tight presidential contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to be affected by voting problems caused by the storm.
Communities along Lake Erie in top battleground Ohio have lost power, but election officials said early voting continued to be robust. The states crippled most by Sandy – New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – are largely Democratic and considered safely in Obama’s camp.
But Connecticut has a competitive race to replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, New York has several closely watched House contests, and all three states have other races whose outcomes could rest on voter turnout.
Michael McDonald, a professor of public affairs at George Mason University in Virginia who studies turnout, said a calamitous weather event right before a presidential election was unprecedented. McDonald said that in such a tight presidential race any turnout diminished by Sandy could make a difference in the overall popular vote.
“It’s unlikely disruptions from Sandy would affect the outcome of the election within those states,” McDonald said. “But if those voters, who are mostly Democrats, end up being subtracted from the national popular vote, you’ll get a lower vote share for Obama than he would have received if those people had voted.”