The power outages and devastation in the tri-state area caused by Hurricane Sandy had unforeseen effects on voter turnout come Election Day. Over 80% of homes were left without electricity and thousands were destroyed in areas like Long Beach and parts of Queens. With these challenges to face, the election took backseat for some local voters.
Many people were left without information as to where to vote, particularly younger voters. “I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to go to place my vote without television,” 24-year-old voter Adam Kronengold said. “Also, I didn’t want to drive too far because I was busy worrying about how much gas I had in my tank. I knew I needed to save it for the commute to work.”
The gas shortage was another problem that tri-state resident dealt with and are still dealing with today.
“I had to wait on line for two hours to get half a tank. It’s just ridiculous,” said North Shore Towers resident Carol Finkelstein. “That was truthfully more of a priority for me at the time than was going to vote.”
“There’s already such disillusionment across the nation about the political system and the [presidential] election that I think this disaster was the straw that broke the camel’s back for voters in our area,” said Wendy Chate, a Roslyn resident who did not vote in this current election.
The situations at the polling places themselves were inconvenient for many voters as well. Some New York City residents had to wait on three-hour lines just to vote.
Many polling places were closed because of the damage, causing congestion at voting booths and frustration for the voters. As a result, Governor Andrew Cuomo arranged that voting could be done at any polling place, not just the one in a voter’s particular district.
President Barack Obama’s immediate response to the hurricane was favorable for many voters, even those who were previously undecided. The support that conservative governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, gave Obama was “unexpected and quite eye-opening to how bipartisanship can emerge in a time of tragedy,” said Brookville resident Wyatt Tichner.
According to an article from “The Washington Post,” after seeing Christie’s support for Obama, many Republicans claimed that this may just be the reason Romney lost the election.
This, however, is not the first time the country witnessed a natural disaster affect political thought. “After the nationally scrutinized response from FEMA and Bush Administration during Hurricane Katrina [in 2005], I really questioned Bush’s effectiveness as a leader,” Queens resident, Marilyn Menchel, said. “I think the opposite effect was seen with Obama. He knew he had to be prepared to show strong leadership and it did him well in the long run.”