Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc across the East Coast and officials are trying to minimize its effects on the political arena.
Remember Abby Silverman, the staffer for Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Allegheny) whose residence during the Democratic primary was the difference between the Congressman making the ballot or not? Another electoral obstacle has befallen her, this time in the form of a hurricane.
Having temporarily moved to New York City, though maintaining her voter registration in the 12th, Silverman filed for an absentee ballot well ahead of the Allegheny county deadline. According to a conversation she said she had with the Allegheny County office, her ballot was sent out last Thursday, meaning she should have received it by now.
“I spoke with the mail carrier and she said that they had severe flooding in the distribution center and that mail is delayed,” Silverman said. “Luckily for me, my father – who appreciates politics as much as I do – is going to go down to elections office and give them a FedEx envelope to send me a new one. But how many people are able to go that far to vote?”
(For the record, she said she’s voting for Critz).
Hurricane Sandy has caused many delays for the United States Postal Service, with hundreds of offices closed or without power as of Nov. 2nd, to say nothing of the slow conditions on the roads.
Silverman’s concern is not unique, with absentee ballot use estimated to have increased 17 percent in Pennsylvania alone, how will this play out for New Jersey and New York?
And that’s the least of it.
Power outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy may even affect polling on Election Day.
All this effort may be for nought though with the effects of Hurricane Sandy still being felt in the form of power outages, especially in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
About 20 percent of the Pennsylvania’s electric customers are serviced by PECO, who as of mid-week reported almost half a million households without power has restored power to about 83 percent of customers. The largest outages remain in Bucks County with 84,000 waiting for power. Pennsylvania Power and Light as well as FirstEnergy last reported 540,000 outages combined.
With many estimates for when the electricity will be turned back on nearing a week, it is optimistic to think that power will be restored in time for the election. While this certainly means a drop in viewers of last-minute political ads, a larger problems looms.
According to Governor Corbett, there are anywhere from 250 to 300 polling places still without power in the state.
Pennsylvania Department of State spokesperson Ron Ruman said those numbers are dropping. A list of which polling places are without power has yet to be released; power outages are concentrated in eastern Pa.
Possibly solutions for polling places lacking electricity include officials moving voting precincts, using paper ballots, or relying on generators for electricity while the polls are open.
And worst of all, Sandy could reduce the impact of TV ads thanks to the fact that many are without power, cable or both.
The Republican National Committee has dropped $3 million in ads, $2.5 million of which is dedicated to broadcast TV, during the last week before the election. That brings the total ad spending to nearly $14 million for the final week of the campaign.