Hurricane Sandy Effect on Election Could Hurt Democrats

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INTERACTIONS
Satellite Image: NASA

According to one forecasting firm, Hurricane Sandy will “end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business,” and as of Tuesday evening the superstorm had left millions without power in the Northeast and claimed the lives of 45 people on the US mainland.

Though Hurricane Sandy will be long over by the elections next week, its massive disruptions will still be a part of life for many voters in the eastern United States, and election day weather forecasts show subsequent weather patterns that, together with the Hurricane Sandy effect on election turnout, could deliver a blow to Democratic candidates, including President Obama, on Election Day.

In 2008, record high voter turnout (the highest since 1968) swept Obama to electoral victory and other Democratic candidates rode his coattails to massive gains in the US House and Senate. But with billions in property damage to the East Coast, including key swing states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida, turnout is likely to be dampened by Hurricane Sandy, which already ground early voting to a halt in some states and may have prevented some eligible citizens from registering to vote by their state’s deadline.

Workers in hospitals, repair and maintenance businesses, construction companies, utilities companies, and infrastructure will be working overtime to recover from the storm damage. Voters whose lives have been disrupted by evacuations and heavy flood or storm damage to their property and places of residence will be busy putting their affairs back together and may find themselves unable or unwilling to vote on Election Day.

There will also be last minute changes to voting locations due to storm damage and flooding, and these changes will be managed by Republican administrations in all three of the swing states named above. State officials are likely to be short-staffed for the election as well, focusing on public safety issues, infrastructure repair, and other hurricane recovery efforts.

The weather on Election Day itself also has a profound effect on voter turnout. A 2007 study by the Journal of Politics found that rainfall decreases voter turnout by a factor of about one percent per inch. The study, titled “The Republicans Should Pray for Rain,” reports in its abstract:

“Poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections.”

Election Day precipitation benefits Republican candidates because Democrats are statistically less likely than Republicans to turn out and vote on a rainy or snowy election day. A survey of voters reported by the Weather Channel on September 25th found that 27% of Democrats report that “bad weather conditions” could moderately to significantly impact their ability or willingness to make it to the ballot booth as opposed to 20% of Republicans.

As of Wednesday morning, AccuWeather’s Election Day precipitation forecast reported a 50% – 75% probability of precipitation covering much of the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida –with a 75% – 100% probability of precipitation in the southern half of Florida. Cross-referenced with a map of 2008 presidential election results by county, the AccuWeather forecast reveals precipitation in all the worst places for Democratic turnout on Election Day:

Nov 6, 2012 Precipitation Map: AccuWeather

In Pennsylvania, precipitation is expected for the eastern half of the state with most of the state’s bluest counties in the densely-populated Philadelphia area. Rainy weather is forecast to cover most of Virginia on election day as well, including quite a few red counties, but will leave many of the commonwealth’s northern red counties on the West Virginia border untouched, while affecting nearly all of northern Virginia’s blue counties, including its densely-populated counties on the border of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In Florida, rainfall is forecast to cover nearly all of the state on November 6th, but will leave its reddest panhandle counties untouched and chances of precipitation will be highest in the southern half of the Sunshine State, covering the Orlando and Miami areas where the heaviest concentration of Democratic-leaning voters reside.

Though Indiana and Washington state will be untouched by the Hurricane Sandy effect on election results, the election day precipitation forecast could give Mitt Romney and Republican Senate candidates a boost in these states, with high chances of precipitation over Indiana’s blue northwestern counties and the entire state of Washington, where the odds of precipitation are extremely high over the western half of the state, covering Washington’s most densely-populated and bluest counties.

Precipitation is also likely for the entire swing state of Michigan, where Mitt Romney just closed the polling gap to within a margin of error, trailing President Obama by only 2.7 percent.

In all, Hurricane Sandy and Election Day precipitation are likely to decrease voter turnout with Democratic candidates most heavily affected by the disruptions and bad weather.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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  4. Ben Sherman Don't think so
  5. Florence Terry Wilson-Goolsby ROMNEY I HOPE
  6. George Jeff Knapp I think at this point people have already decided who they are going to vote for, sure the storms biggest impact will be post 11-06 when the loser blames & complains.
  7. Christopher Hood Yea because most of the middle class is stuck fixing after the hurricane.
  8. Jamie Wendland If it had been earlier, I would have said Obama. But even with his lovefest with fellow opportunist, Christie, I'd have to say Romney. The reason being is because of the ridiculous media overkill, there's basically a "time freeze" on political news. That said though, nature timed well with politics, as never again will storm victims receive such great, immediate service as they are, a week from an election. Why, nothing spells "flood relief" like pair of pandering presidential hopefuls.
  9. Marion MG since it will be hard for ppl in nyc and nj to vote dems will suffer unless they come up with a plan of how to get ppl who are displaced to be able to vote
  10. Kirk Coleman Obama blamed the hurricane on a YouTube Video.
20 comments
karen millen dubai
karen millen dubai

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dresses in karen millen
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Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out much. I'm hoping to provide one thing again and help others such as you helped me.

karen millen outlet store uk
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George Jeff Knapp
George Jeff Knapp

I think at this point people have already decided who they are going to vote for, sure the storms biggest impact will be post 11-06 when the loser blames & complains.

Christopher Hood
Christopher Hood

Yea because most of the middle class is stuck fixing after the hurricane.

Jamie Wendland
Jamie Wendland

If it had been earlier, I would have said Obama. But even with his lovefest with fellow opportunist, Christie, I'd have to say Romney. The reason being is because of the ridiculous media overkill, there's basically a "time freeze" on political news. That said though, nature timed well with politics, as never again will storm victims receive such great, immediate service as they are, a week from an election. Why, nothing spells "flood relief" like pair of pandering presidential hopefuls.

Marion MG
Marion MG

since it will be hard for ppl in nyc and nj to vote dems will suffer unless they come up with a plan of how to get ppl who are displaced to be able to vote

Kirk Coleman
Kirk Coleman

Obama blamed the hurricane on a YouTube Video.

Bryant Fraser
Bryant Fraser

That's why Haarp is part of the voting process! Now the Weather has a Voting Rights that will count, which is more then I can say for us!!!

Clinton Chrisman
Clinton Chrisman

I dont think so. I think everyone had their minds made up a while back.

Regina Siegel
Regina Siegel

The chaos could make it even easier to steal the election by manipulating the (Romney owned, some of them in swing states) electronic voting machines.

Ellen Rentz
Ellen Rentz

Why in the world would you mention Florida in this? Florida has no damage from Sandy other than maybe a little beach erosion on the Atlantic Coast . Virginia and PA, but mostly New York and Jersey.

Kris Haynes
Kris Haynes

The media is playing this up as Obama's fault.

bob jackson
bob jackson

"Hurricane's Effects Could Hurt Democrats." Contrary to this notion, with the 2012 Presidential Election, possibly being "The Most Crucial Election" since the election of FDR (1932,) preceding 'The bombing of Pearl Harbor" and WWII. Personally, I see Democrats (and Obama Voters with other political affiliations) "Turning-Out" in RECORD NUMBERS (regardless of the Weather,) by simply understanding the "Supreme Court's - Polical Balance - for the next 40 - 50 Years," will be determined by the President elected in 2012. .......

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

i forsee both sides blaming sandy at least partially on the outcome no matter what it is

Jane Susskind
Jane Susskind

Great article. Whether or not the decreased voter turnout will swing the election one way or another remains to be seen. Because of the electoral college, it may not be as big of an issue for Obama, but still adversely affects the Democrats candidates riding his coattails.

Lucas Eaves
Lucas Eaves

I did not realize to which extent weather could influence voter turnout, and how much of a disparity there were between reps and dems.

Cassidy Noblejas Bartolomei
Cassidy Noblejas Bartolomei

I bet Republicans planned to have elections held in the late fall/early winter season on purpose! Just kidding. Interesting article, though.