Superstorm Sandys winds, rain and snow have closed early voting sites and dampened voter turnout in North Carolina this week, but observers dont expect the storm to have the significant impact on next weeks election that it could have in other states.
One-stop polling sites in parts of four coastal counties have been closed after waves covered barrier island highway N.C. 12.
One mountain county closed an early voting site an hour early Tuesday as strong winds and snow closed schools and made roads treacherous.
Monday marked the first day of this years early voting period that turnout decreased from the same day in 2008, Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer said. About 175,000 people cast ballots Monday, about 22,000 fewer than in 2008.
While Democrats have voted in greater numbers during the early voting period, most counties in the regions affected so far voted strongly for Republican John McCain in 2008 leaving the potential effect it could have on the final election numbers unclear.
I would have to think it would affect both sides. If a poll was closed, neither Democrats nor Republicans can show up, Bitzer said. I would be suspicious of making any great assumptions on whether one side is hurt or not.
One-stop polling sites in Currituck County and one in Dare County on the coast were closed Monday. The Dare County site in Buxton on the Outer Banks was closed again Tuesday.
Another site on Ocracoke Island in Hyde County, closed Friday and wont be able to open until later this week when ferry service resumes, said State Board of Elections deputy director Johnnie McLean.
In the mountains, the Yancey County Board of Elections office closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday, one hour early.
The concern right now is the safety of the voters and the polling place officials at the early voting sites, McLean said.
She said she has talked to county boards of elections in the affected counties and does not believe the sites will have any troubles being open on Election Day.
McLean also said that 1.6 million people had voted early in North Carolina as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, significantly higher than at the same point four years ago.
Thats just phenomenal, she said.
Hurricane Sandys impact was felt much stronger in Northeastern states such as New Jersey and New York.
Both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have altered their campaign plans. Obama emailed supporters asking them to donate to the Red Cross. Romney held a storm relief drive in Dayton, Ohio.