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Saturday, November 3, 2012

More on Sandy and Turnout

As previous posts have noted, Hurricane Sandy may have some effect on voter turnout  in the New York metropolitan area. There is no chance that New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut will switch from Obama to Romney, but their overall vote totals may be down, which in turn could affect the president's national vote margin. There is some talk of invoking a New York law allowing for a second day of voting, but because a presidential election is taking place, there would be serious constitutional questions about such a move.

From NBC, an estimate of the vote drop that is less conservative than mine:
President Obama stands to lose as many as 340,000 votes as a result of Hurricane Sandy, not enough to affect the outcome in heavily Democratic Northeastern states, but something that could make a difference in the popular vote if the results of Tuesday’s presidential race are as close as polls indicate, a First Read analysis finds.
“Sandy has the potential to reduce Obama's national popular vote share by depressing turnout in highly Democratic areas along the Eastern Seaboard,” Dr. Michael McDonald of George Mason University, who studies turnout, told First Read. “The storm is unlikely to change the Electoral College outcome, as Obama is heavily favored to win the affected states. A turnout drop could be the difference in a close national election, and thus could shape the political discourse over important policy issues in a possible Obama second term.”

For example, assuming 2008 vote totals and a 15 percent reduction in turnout in the coastal counties most affected by Hurricane Sandy in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, Obama would lose a net of 340,000 votes, including 247,000 out of New York, 60,000 from New Jersey, 29,000 from Connecticut, and 3,600 from Rhode Island.
From The New York Daily News:
Voting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, as scheduled, but scores of polling stations will likely be moved or operating off generators, election officials said. In New Jersey, paper ballots will be used and military trucks will serve as polling sites in some areas. New Yorkers are dealing with a “fluid” situation, said John Conklin, spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections.

“We are doing an assessment of power, safety, and the ability to get voting machines in and out of the facilities,” Conklin told the Daily News on Friday. “We will decide if and when to move a polling station once that is done,” he said.

In areas of Staten Island and Queens, flooding was so severe that some sites might not be accessible. The Staten Island Board of Elections office had to close. So too did the Manhattan office, which is now sharing space at the Borough's Voting Machine Facility.
There’s no set timeline as to when a polling station will be moved ahead of Tuesday, Conklin said. He stressed conditions are “constantly changing. It’s a fluid situation.”
From WCBS in New York:
Connecticut state officials from Gov. Dan Malloy on down are denying rumors that the election has been cancelled.
About 50 polling locations in Connecticut lack power and more than a dozen are so badly damaged that there is no way voting can take place there.
In Greenwich, Republican Registrar of Voters Fred DeCaro said there are blocked driveways and roads.
“Accessibility is still an issue for people to get out from their house,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnane.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill was reluctant to move too many voting locations.
“Really, people get so confused and they’re already under all this stress. So, that, I think would help to depress turnout, I’m afraid,” she said. 
From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
With an untold number of residents displaced because of Hurricane Sandy and problems with power outages at polling places, some voters will face added challenges in exercising their basic right.
The Christie administration's answer: Vote early.
The state has ordered county election offices to remain open through the weekend so anyone with concerns about voting on Tuesday can cast a paper ballot in advance.
After receiving reports from the state's 21 counties, Gov. Christie said Friday that it appeared only 10 polling places statewide would be entirely inaccessible Tuesday.
Officials did not say how many other sites might be affected by other problems, such as loss of power.
In some cases, the governor said, voters will go to their usual polling locations to find trucks or trailers where they can vote "old school" by paper ballot.
"Everybody in New Jersey will have a way to vote," he said. "It will probably take us longer to count the votes, but it will be a late night anyway."
As for voters who have relocated far from their home counties and do not plan to return by Tuesday, they are out of luck, unless they have posted mail-in ballots