Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy and a Split Election Outcome

As mentioned before, Hurricane Sandy has plagued the New York metropolitan area with power outages, gas lines, and various kinds of property damage.  Election Day is Tuesday, and many people may not have time to vote, or be able to reach polling places.  The aftermath will probably depress voter turnout, at least a little.  Suppose that about the same number of people were going to vote as in 2008, and suppose further that the storm will reduce this number by five percent.  The area is heavily Democratic, so a five percent reduction in turnout would make a dent in President Obama's national popular vote margin.  

We can calculate the effect by looking at a dozen counties:  the five that make up New York City, along with Nassau County on Long Island, and six nearby counties  in New Jersey.  In 2008, President Obama won this set of counties by 2,028,123 votes (see below).  Reducing this figure by five percent would cut the president's aggregate vote margin by 101,406.  In a very close national election, this effect could cost the president a plurality in the popular vote even if he wins in the electoral college.

Of course,  this calculation involves guesswork and arbitrary assumptions.  You could reach a higher or lower figure by including additional counties or assuming a different percentage reduction.  But it is still reasonable to conclude that Sandy has increased the possibility of a split in the popular and electoral vote.


County........Obama 2008 margin

Bronx
296,578
Kings
451,653
New York
482,421
Queens
325,471
Richmond
-6,751
Nassau
53,409
Bergen
39,249
Essex
166,243
Hudson
98,780
Middlesex
70,117
Monmouth
-11,696
Union
62,649
2028123