Hurricane aftermath may prove problematic for voters

In the aftermath of one of the most devastating storms to hit the East Coast, many are wondering what effect Hurricane Sandy will have on the election.

With hundreds of homes lost to fire or flood, families mourning for their loved ones and no electricity, are those effected going to be able to vote? Are there even voting stations still in the areas affected? At this point, it would be too late to apply for absentee ballots, too.

One solution in Ocean County, New Jersey, is setting up early voting stations. The advertisement says, “Many people have reached out to us with concerns that the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the loss of power at polling places will prevent them and their neighbors from casting their vote.”

New Jersey has also enlisted the help of the National Guard. The Department of Defense will be stationed outside of inoperable polling stations with authority to collect paper ballots.

According to a Seton Hall University student, Charlotte Lewis, the school, located in New Jersey, is facing a similar dilemma with downed power lines and flooded schools. Lewis, the Editor-in-Chief of their newspaper, said she is reminded how fortunate they are compared to the harder hit regions along the East Coast.

“Voting is a right—but so is the right to live, and right now so many people in our state and in New York are struggling to survive. Which right are they going to focus on come Tuesday?” said Lewis.

According to Lewis, at this point, it’s about their priorities. For many, voting will not be one of them.

In addition to voting concerns, Hurricane Sandy seems to have an effect on the campaigning efforts themselves.

“Where I think the storm did the most damage was to the Romney campaign,” stated Joseph Coelho, assistant professor of political science at Seton Hill University, in an email. “They had a bit of momentum behind them since the first debate and all of that was deflected away by the media’s coverage of the storm, which showed President Obama handling the situation on the ground very effectively.”

It’s being reported by power companies that there are more than 1.3 million homes and businesses in New York without power—and another 1.4 million in New Jersey.

Many of the public voting stations, like high schools and town halls, are now without electricity or flooded—and some even serve as shelters for those without heat, food or a home to go to.

For the towns that still have their voting stations, they have to take the gas shortage into consideration. According to a report from Joshua Miller with Fox News, the storm “has forced many gas stations to close and disrupted the fuel deliveries to those that remain open…60 percent of gas stations in New Jersey are shuttered, compared to the 70 percent with those on New York’s Long Island.”

In addition, the aftermath of the storm has left the death toll rising. Across 10 states, there have been 90 deaths reported due to Sandy.

Governor Mitt Romney had suspended his campaigning events on Tuesday and President Barack Obama remained in the White House, awaiting news of the devastation and how to proceed with federal relief efforts.

Some are saying this may be an advantage to President Obama. Because he is the man currently in office, his relief efforts could benefit his public opinion. With no electricity, it’ll be impossible for radio and TV ads to have an effect on listeners/viewers.

Take a look at this Storify about Sandy’s effect on the 2012 election. 

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