Nor'easter threatens New York's special election on Tuesday

NEW YORK – This could be the "perfect storm" of politics, drama and weather as a nor'easter is forecast to bring inches of snow and strong winds to the New York Metro area for the special election as candidates battle for an ousted congressman's seat.

As if the history of the seat of former Representative George Santos wasn't stormy enough, even forging ahead will be wrought with challenges and issues as a nor'easter joins the two candidates vying for the disgraced seat.

"There's a lot of money being spent. You can't really tell if you watch TV, to go online or YouTube or watch a video without seeing an ad for one of the candidates," said Jim Scheuerman, Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections for Nassau County, expecting a big turnout. "So I think a lot of interest has been shown in this race, and we're seeing that at our poll sites for early voting."


Mazi Melesa Pilip, Nassau County legislator and US Republican House candidate for New York, right, arrives to cast her ballot during early voting in Massapequa, New York, US, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. In the February 13 special election to fill the Long Island seat vacated by scandal-plagued Republican George Santos, former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi has raised more than three times as much as his Republican challenger, Mazi Pilip.

Associate Professor David Richards at the University of Lynchburg agrees.

"This one might bring out a few more (voters) than usual just because of the national spotlight and the intense interest in the race. The fact that the district has flipped to the GOP in recent elections coupled with intense efforts on the part of the Democrats to get votes out will matter," said Richards. "Add the scandal effect from Santos; it might be higher than normal. However, subtract voters due to bad weather, and the overall effect may not be noticeable."

But how do you weigh safety against casting a vote, especially for a single-race candidate?

"I think there are some folks that are going to be scared away by the weather, but I can't (say for sure)," Scheuerman continued. "I have to say, from the interest we've seen, I think that some voters will probably wait a little bit (until afternoon), but they're going to want to come out and have their voice heard since it's such an important election."


New York's Third Congressional District straddles upscale Nassau County, Long Island and part of New York City. Meteorologists and candidates parry for TV time along with the mayor to go out and vote versus 'Don't leave home' messaging.

"We expect slippery roads and limited visibility, and so we're strongly encouraging New Yorkers if you don't have to go out, stay home, and please use public transportation," pleaded New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference. "We want to minimize the number of vehicles on the road so that our apparatus and vehicles can actually deal with removal of snow and make our movement in the city more feasible."

But, polling sites will be open despite New York City schools having a remote learning day.

"We are working very, very closely with elections to make sure that those sites are open and running, that we will be salting, that we will be shoveling, and we want to just give a big shout-out and thanks to the election workers who will be going out early in the morning at 5:00 am to make sure that those sites are open," said Commissioner Zach Iscol in the press conference.


File: People vote at a polling site in Queens during the New York Democratic presidential primary elections in 2020.
File: People vote at a polling site in Queens during the New York Democratic presidential primary elections in 2020.

Staffing is a bigger problem in Nassau County. Officials have been preparing for days to ensure polling places are open and plowed even if schools are closed.

"The only hiccup we're running into now is, you know, some of our poll workers who are one of the most important parts of our elections. Some of them are getting a little scared of the weather, and they're saying they don't want to work," said Scheuerman. "So we're working furiously to try and replace these folks who are dropping out."

Rain will start overnight and change to snow by morning. This will make pretreating roads tricky because the rain will wash the solution away.

"The main axis of heavy snow will take shape just in time for the Tuesday morning commute as the low quickly strengthens. 1-3" per hour snow rates appear likely during this time," said the FOX Forecast Center. "Snow this intense will overcome marginal temperatures and will accumulate on the roads, quickly making travel dangerous. Visibility will also be limited to under a half mile in the heaviest snow bands."


The snow forecast through Tuesday.
The snow forecast through Tuesday.

But plowing in the city won't start until two inches have accumulated, a commissioner at the press event said. She doesn't expect plowing and salting to be completed until "hours after the last flakes fall." Then, the Department of Sanitation will be able to address pedestrian crosswalks.

Property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks. Commissioner Jessica Tisch hopes to see an improvement in response time.

"We saw in the last two snow events in New York City that the streets were very clear, but the sidewalks were pretty treacherous," Tisch said.


File: A doorman holds an umbrella while he shovels a sidewalk outside an apartment building during a morning snowstorm.
File: A doorman holds an umbrella while he shovels a sidewalk outside an apartment building during a morning snowstorm.

To beat the snow, Nassau County is urging voters to vote early, but Scheuerman hasn't seen much activity today.

"Today is the last day that voters can come in person to the Board of Elections and vote via early vote by mail in person. So we're telling everybody, you know, we have it up on and all the campaigns are doing it, and we're getting the word out governmentally that if you're worried about tomorrow, you have to come in person to the Board of Elections today, and you can vote today," he said.

Original article source: Nor'easter threatens New York's special election on Tuesday