As we all know, the Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy has devastated the East Coast. But what if instead of the Benghazi, Libya incident, this storm becomes Obama’s October Surprise by affecting the popular vote on Election Day?
Election officials are now facing the challenges presented by power outages, floods, and snowstorms that could hinder voting through Election Day and possibly beyond.
“We are anticipating that, based on the storm, there could be impacts that would linger into next week and have impacts on the federal election,” said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to USAToday.com. “It’s really too early to say what will be the impacts of the storm, and that’s why it’s again important that we’ll be supporting the governors’ teams and their supervisors of election or secretaries of State as they determine what … assistance they may need.”
Many of the states affected by Hurricane Sandy are swing states crucial for their electoral votes. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are most reliant on electronic voting machines, with more than half the counties no longer having access to paper ballots. In Ohio alone, more than 250,000 people were without power, and I’m sure that includes many voting centers.
Electricity and the election machines are just one of the issues. Flooding has already taken place on a massive scale, meaning that voters will be busy coping with water in their homes and businesses. Some schools will still be closed, meaning that kids will have to be watched after. This increases the chance that voters — maybe hundreds of thousands of them — will be will be too busy to vote on Election Day.
This could almost be stated that this natural disaster represents the biggest disenfranchisement of voters the country has ever seen. Now here is where the October Surprise comes in. Consider where these voters live and which Presidential candidate this disproportionately affects: Obama.
A good portion of New York city is underwater, and New Yorkers tend to vote Obama. The latest poll out of New York gives Obama a 61 to 35 advantage over Romney, which translates to a 2-million-vote lead throughout the State. The entire New York state has a population of 19.46 million. New York City has a 8.25 million population, and 2.64 million of those people voted in 2008. Obama enjoyed 95 percent support in 2008 from New York City, but not all of the state is staunchly Democratic.
The usual enormous Democratic lead, combined with cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, suggests there is less incentive for storm-disenfranchised Obama supporters to bother voting in deep-blue states. Fortunately for Obama, New York is a “winner takes all” state when it comes to the electoral system. Even if a good number of Obama supporters in New York state cannot vote, Obama is still most likely to win the state. Over 75 percent of Obama-supporting New Yorkers would have to not vote to make a difference.
In a worst-case scenario, a federal law would prevent this Frankenstorm from becoming Obama’s October Surprise. Many state laws allow for rescheduling or even canceling an election. But this is not a given. Most states must attempt to hold the election, and there are a few where elections must be held on November 6. This would also be a startling precedent since not even during the Civil War was the presidential election postponed or cancelled. So we look to Ohio where Frankenstorm still has the potential of becoming the October Surprise.