Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy and a Split Election Outcome

Previous posts have discussed the possibility of a split between the popular and electoral vote. Hurricane Sandy may have increased the chances for such an outcome.

The effects have been severe in New York and New Jersey .  Property damage amounts to billion of dollars, and millions of people may not get electricity back for several days.  These problems could affect turnout in several ways.
  • First, recovering from the disaster will be tough and time-consuming.  People will have to repair their homes, restock refrigerators full of spoiled food, and make up for lost work.  Some may not have time to vote.
  • Second, even before the storm, there was a backlog of absentee ballot applications in New York City, and the hurricane will probably worsen the delay.  Some voters will not get their ballots in time.  In other states as well, the storm may hinder early voting.
  • Third, storm damage will disrupt get-out-the-vote efforts.  Though neither presidential campaign is putting resources into either state (both of which will go for Obama), many downballot campaigns and local party organizations were planning on door-to-door contact and electronic communication to mobilize supporters.   The hurricane will cost these efforts several days that they can't get back. 
In 2008, 7,640,640 New Yorkers and 3,868,237 New Jerseyans voted for president, for a total of approximately 11.5 million ballots.  If similar numbers were headed for the polls this year, and if the hurricane depressed turnout by just one percent, that's a drop of 115,000 votes, of which about 65,000 would probably go to Obama.

In this scenario, he would still carry the two states, but in an extremely close election, his national popular-vote total might dip below Romney's.