As Sandy smacked the East Coast, Democrats especially had feared that early voting, a key part of their strategy to get supporters to the polls, would be slowed. There was even talk of postponing Election Day voting.
But Johnnie McLean, deputy elections administrator in North Carolina, whose coast was hit hard by the storm, said Tuesday that there is no talk about postponing the election. “The only discussion has come from reporters asking similar questions,” McLean said.
Maybe the surest sign that the storm caution was over came in Pennsylvania, where Mitt Romney’s campaign and conservative groups began buying airtime in a state that until very recently seemed very solidly in President Obama’s column. The Romney campaign said that Pennsylvania, which has not voted for a GOP nominee since 1988, represented a “unique opportunity” for the Republican candidate.
Officials in a variety of affected states said that while early voting had been delayed in some areas, most of the time was likely to be made up in the days before the Nov. 6 election. They also vowed that Election Day itself would be relatively unaffected, even as they scrambled in the hardest-hit states to make sure all voting machines would have power.
In Pennsylvania, officials said that getting all the polls open in all 67 counties on Election Day may be problematic. About 1.2 million customers in Pennsylvania lost power in the storm, and utilities warned that full restoration might be more than a week away. All of the nine counties with the bulk of the power losses went for Obama in 2008.
But in the end, officials in the Keystone State vowed there would be little or no impact at the polls next Tuesday. “Things have improved dramatically,” Ron Ruman, a spokesman for Secretary of State Carol Aichele, said Tuesday. “There could be a precinct here or there that could be impacted, but the early reports we’re hearing are pretty good.”
While Congress established the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the date for federal elections, states are responsible for administering them. The states have some leeway in the timing of the balloting, but the legal and political terrain is so problematic that it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances to change the date.
Any governor who tried to reschedule or extend an election because of the weather would immediately be accused of partisan motivations, said Steven Huefner, professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. “There certainly would be a court fight,’’ he said.