COMMENTARY | Last Monday, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, devastating New Jersey and causing flooding and other damage in New York as well. Now, just one day before the elections, political analysts across the nation are questioning whether Sandy will prove to have had an influence on Tuesday's results.
I would argue given the most recent polls by CNN and others that Sandy will not ultimately have enough of an impact to decide who wins the presidency, but there are a number of ways that it still will have an influence.
Voting in New York and New Jersey
ABC News and other media outlets reported that New Jersey will be allowing residents displaced by Sandy to cast their ballot by email or fax, a method that has come under fire by analysts at Politico and other outlets for its potential for "cyber snafus." In a statement quoted by that same outlet, however, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno stated that New Jersey is "committed" to working through potential issues in order to "hold an open and transparent election."
Voting is a concern in New York City as well. UPI and other outlets reported on Monday that New York State Board of Elections spokesman Thomas Connolly has said that voter turnout in some areas may be low, as people "have other priorities" in the wake of the storm. County election officials are allowed to request that polls remain open for an additional day if voter turnout proves to be less than 25 percent, which Connolly acknowledged could become a possibility, although he noted that "this has never happened in New York."
Voter Perception of President Barack Obama
USA Today's Kenneth Walsh and other analysts have posited that the president's response to Hurricane Sandy gave him a boost going into the elections on Tuesday. That hypothesis may be bolstered by the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed that 67 percent of likely voters approve of the way that Obama has handled the crisis. Nonetheless, that same poll showed that nationally the president and challenger Mitt Romney remain statistically tied, at 48 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
The Swing States
This is where the argument that Sandy will help decide the election truly breaks down. Obama has held a slight advantage in the polls for crucial swing states like Ohio for weeks now, and that remained unchanged as of Monday. Virginia and Florida may still be up in the air, but the president has advantages in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Nevada, which along with the states that are already considered to be in the president's column, will give him more than enough electoral votes to win on Tuesday.
While some analysts want to argue that the advantages we're seeing in the latest polls are mostly due to Hurricane Sandy, the New York Times has pointed out that the president had already been rebounding in polling before the storm. So while Obama may see some gain from voters' perception of his response to Sandy, those gains don't look like they're going to actually affect real change on Tuesday's results, given that the president's chances of being reelected looked to be strengthening beforehand.
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