With power still out to millions of Americans across the East Coast and relief efforts still underway in several states, Hurricane Sandy could have a major impact on the upcoming presidential election.
Grand Valley political science professor Erika King said the aftermath of the storm changes several factors in the days leading up to the election, including potentially decreasing voter turnout in a few swing states, and reducing door-to-door campaigning efforts.
King said the biggest impact is how the storm could decrease voter turnout, specifically in Virginia and eastern Ohio, two key swing states.
While voter turnout could suffer dramatically in the northeast due to ongoing clean-up and rebuilding efforts, President Barack Obama is largely expected to win most of the hardest hit states. In Virginia and parts of Ohio near the state’s eastern border, damage from the storm could alter the number of votes cast, meaning fewer votes could have a more significant impact on the end result.
“It’s a question of the key swing states, which are so extremely close,” King said. “So that includes Virginia, Ohio, which took a hit on the eastern edge of the state, and New Hampshire, which wasn’t hit as hard. Those states will be more impacted. You won’t see a difference in New York, New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland.”
Door-to-door campaigning at the end of the campaign could also be affected, a tactic King said is significant this close to Election Day.
“It affects the ground game, which is so terribly important at the very end,” King said. “If you don’t have a ground game and can’t get to people in key areas like Virginia, it’s going to cause some changes.”