Will Superstorm Sandy affect the election?

Photo courtesy of NBC News

By Kelly Adams

Hurricane Sandy devastated the eastern coast last week leaving millions without power days before one of the closest elections in history. The question is, will this superstorm help decide our next president?

According to the Washington Post, 1.4 million people in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are still without power. Officials have been working tirelessly for a week to clean flood damage and restore power in time for the election.

Dennis Kobitz, president of the New Jersey Association of Election Officials, said that the biggest challenge for election officials in his state are logistical. This means mass power outages, blocked roads and flooding.

“We would like to keep one to two polling places in each town,” Kobitz told Alison Brennan of CNN because he doesn’t want to force voters to have to travel to cast their vote.

Some voters have been wondering if the election will be postponed. Jennifer Hale, a pharmacy student at the University of Kentucky has family in Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“I wonder if they should just postpone the election until we get all cleaned up. With millions of people still affected, what is more important, knowing the next president right away or getting people the help they need?”

Hale is not alone, many are worried that those in the hardest hit states won’t even show up at the polls.

However, the date of the election won’t be changed. An 1845 law dictates that the presidential election must be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Changing the date nationally would require an act of Congress, which has ever been done.

“There is some flexibility in the date even with the [1845 law] in place,” says Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of Political Science at Emory University. “But just from a practical standpoint, as inconvenient as this is for folks trying to rebuild houses and rescue people who are trapped, it would be a logistical nightmare to try to postpone this election. It’s probably easier to try to bite the bullet and do it now rather than try to delay it.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is confident the Garden State will be able to cast their votes on Tuesday.

“I’m sure that as Election Day gets closer, we’re going to find ways to make sure that it’s as functional as possible and people are able to vote,” Booker told CNN’s “Starting Point” on Tuesday.

Because New Jersey and New York were already predicted to go to the President, experts don’t believe the storm will have too big of an affect on where those states’ electoral votes will go.

“I don’t know if [the low turnout] will affect the overall election in part because the few Mitt Romney supporters will cancel out the fewer President Obama supporters,” says Gillespie. “Obama will still win New York and New Jersey as he has always been predicted to do.”

Gillespie also says that there might be a difference in the popular vote, especially since the states that have been hit hardest by the storm are expected to vote for Obama, but she doesn’t believe it will affect the outcome.

Red indicates historically Republican voters and blue indicates historically democratic voters. Photo courtesy of HLNtv.com

Another question for voters is whether each candidate’s reaction to the storm will sway any votes. When there is a crisis, it is an opportunity for the president to show leadership, and many believe he did a great job.

According to this NBC News poll, 67 percent of voters approve of president Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy. In the northeast that number goes up to 80 percent.

Another poll conducted by NBC News asked which candidate shows better leadership qualities. In mid-October, 44 percent said Romney while only 40 percent thought the President showed better leadership. After Sandy, the President’s number has gone up to 45 percent.

NBC poll experts believe Sandy has swayed some undecided voters to believe Obama can be a great leader in moments of crisis. Most however, don’t believe the marginal rise in the poll will have much of an affect on the outcome.

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