by Joey Khalil
As Superstorm Sandy barrels through the east coast just one week before voters will cast their ballots, both candidates have at least partially halted their campaigning efforts.
Earlier this week, the White House released a statement attributing the cancelled campaign events to “deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area,” and added, “The President will return to the White House to monitor the preparations for and early response to Hurricane Sandy.”
The Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney also cancelled all campaign events early on this week.
“Out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy, we are canceling [Monday’s] events with Governor Romney in Wisconsin and Congressman Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida,” said Gail Gitcho, Romney’s communications director.
In addition to affecting both candidates’ campaign plans, the devastating results of Superstorm Sandy left many areas along the east coast without power, which will prove to be a challenge for polling centers that rely on electronic methods of polling.
“I can’t see how this won’t greatly affect the election,” said Leila Makled, a representative of the Michigan State University Obama Campaign, “Power is down from Maine to South Carolina, all of which use mainly electronic voting ballots.”
Makled said the issue becomes greater when considering voters themselves, many of whom may have lost the means by which they would have been able to vote during Superstorm Sandy.
“There are a ton of people who lost everything, including their IDs, how are they going to deal with that at polling centers?” Makled said.
Makled said she has heard a fair amount of political rhetoric that assumes this type of disaster will weigh down on Obama’s chances for re-election more so than it would for Governor Romney, but said she doesn’t exactly prescribe to this notion.
“We will just have to see,” Makled said, “we’ll continue our efforts here but I’m just not sure.”
Makled also believes the campaigns may try to use the effects of the storm to their own political advantage.
Andrea Bommarito, chairperson of the college Republicans, says it is likely that the storm has already affected the election.
“The storm has already shown to be affecting early voting in states like Pennsylvania. If power is still out on November 6th I feel that it will affect voter turnout on the east coast,” Bommarito said.
Though Bommarito is unsure about the extent to which voter turnout will be impacted, she believes that if any of the candidates will feel the marginal loss, it will be President Obama.
“The areas that are largely affected are heavily democratic, so if anything the Romney campaign will be the main benefactors,” Bommarito said.
Whether or not the effects of the storm will impact voters’ ability to get to the polls remains to be seen. Alan Srock, post-doc researcher with Michigan State Department of Geography says that in Michigan, most voters will likely be able to get to the ballot box without much trouble.
“I don’t foresee any issues with voting here, the effects here should be minimal if any,” said Srock.
For voters on the East Coast however, the storm’s wake may hinder their ability to get to a voting booth next week, according to Srock.
“Obviously on the East Coast there may be loss of power or flooding and those types of things, which will probably depend most on the specific location, their relativity to the storm and all those other pieces that go along with it,” said Srock.
Historically there has not been a time when severe weather has had the potential to affect an election like Superstorm Sandy has this year, said Srock as he alluded to a blizzard over a century ago in New York state whose impact was not as severe as that of Sandy.
“As to the possible impact on election day, it’s tough to know,” said Srock, “but it definitely seems like it has already done enough damage to have more of an impact that we’ve seen before.”
In terms of damage to polling areas, and transportation to and from these sites, Srock says most of the storm damage is already done.
“The bulk of the storm is over, not to say more damage from here on out isn’t a possibility but the bigger issue is there are tunnels that are flooded, there are subways that are flooded, if you cant get back to your house it’s going to change a lot of things,” Srock said.