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Stormy election: Hurricane Sandy may impact voter behavior, change voters' minds

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 2:21 p.m. MDT

Waves wash over the seawall near high tide at Battery Park in New York, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast.  (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press) Waves wash over the seawall near high tide at Battery Park in New York, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast. (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press)

Hurricane Sandy and related severe weather hitting the East Coast Monday and Tuesday could have the power to shape the final week of the presidential race by changing the minds of voters, disrupting campaign events and impacting early voting.

In studies examining the impact of weather on presidential elections, the pattern suggests that the incumbent party does less well when it's too wet or dry, political scientist Larry Bartels told Mother Jones. However, for President Barack Obama, the storm presents an opportunity to show leadership that may sway voters

"Especially because it's happening so close to the election, probably the visible response of the administration to the situation is going to matter more than the situation itself," Bartels said.

"Every president puts up pictures of himself with shirtsleeves rolled up comforting voters," political science professor Andrew Reeves told Mother Jones. "I'm willing to bet that we're going to see the White House put up a picture of Obama doing the same."

Richard Thomas walks through the flood waters in front of his home after assisting neighbors as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Del. Forecasters warned that the New York City region could face the worst of Hurricane Sandy as it bore down on the U.S. East Coast's largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of financial markets and mass transit, sending coastal residents fleeing and threatening high winds, rain and a wall of water up to 11 feet (3.35 meters) tall. It could endanger up to 50 million people for days.   (Alex Brandon, Associated Press) Richard Thomas walks through the flood waters in front of his home after assisting neighbors as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Fenwick Island, Del. Forecasters warned that the New York City region could face the worst of Hurricane Sandy as it bore down on the U.S. East Coast's largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of financial markets and mass transit, sending coastal residents fleeing and threatening high winds, rain and a wall of water up to 11 feet (3.35 meters) tall. It could endanger up to 50 million people for days. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

However, if mismanagement of a natural disaster turns the storm into a national event, Obama's approval rating may decline in response, the article warned.

On Monday, Obama canceled two campaign trips, leaving Florida early in order to beat the system to the East Coast, and nixing a Tuesday trip to Green Bay, Wis.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller tweeted that upon his return to the White House, Obama planned to hold a situation room meeting with key officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and others to monitor and assess the situation.

CNN reports that Obama will make a statement at 10:45 p.m. MT.

Obama has also declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The emergency declaration authorizes federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.

In Baltimore's Fells Point waterfront neighborhood, some streets near the harbor, normally filled with the cars of residents and visitors, are deserted Monday morning, Oct. 29, 2012 as city officials ordered cars to be moved from low-lying areas. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.  (Alex Dominguez, Associated Press) In Baltimore's Fells Point waterfront neighborhood, some streets near the harbor, normally filled with the cars of residents and visitors, are deserted Monday morning, Oct. 29, 2012 as city officials ordered cars to be moved from low-lying areas. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. (Alex Dominguez, Associated Press)

The storm may impact the ability of citizens to vote by cutting into early-voting days, delaying the delivery of absentee ballots and cutting short early or in-person absentee voting, The Atlantic reported Monday.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dan Malloy extended the voter registration deadline, while Maryland and Washington D.C. suspended early voting Monday. Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island offer the option of voting early by mail only. According to CNN, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said his state will take measures to ensure citizens can vote despite the obstacles accompanying the storm, and will make it a priority to restore power to polling centers should outages occur.

Both campaigns have urged supporters to donate to the Red Cross, and both agreed to stop sending fundraising emails Monday to people living in the storm's path. Mitt Romney's staffers in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia were collecting storm-relief supplies at campaign offices, while Romney emailed supporters to encourage them to prepare for the storm and to help their neighbors get ready as well, The Associated Press reported.

Storm clouds loom over the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.   ( John Minchillo, Associated Press) Storm clouds loom over the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. ( John Minchillo, Associated Press)

Byron York of the Washington Examiner tweeted that Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had canceled all Monday night and Tuesday campaign events, "out of sensitivity for millions of Americans in path of Hurricane Sandy."

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