Sandy Disrupts Lives Of Millions On The East Coast

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I’m Robert Siegel. We heard, a few minutes ago, about how Hurricane Sandy has forced the presidential campaigns to rework their plans. The storm has also disrupted early voting, and election preparations. For now, though, the impact on the election is expected to be minimal, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Throughout the mid-Atlantic region, election officials are adjusting to the storm. Maryland and the District of Columbia both canceled early voting for today and tomorrow. And in Virginia, where there's in-person absentee voting, the Board of Elections has advised local election officials to be accommodating. Voters there usually only get to vote absentee if business, vacation or disability is expected to keep them from the polls on Election Day. Now, an anticipated loss of power, or impassable roads, will also be an acceptable excuse.

BETTY WEIMER: I've had two voters that have requested to use that, to vote.

FESSLER: Betty Weimer is general registrar of elections in Prince William County, Virginia. She says they're trying to do what they can, to help voters struggling with the storm. Three of the county's four early voting sites were open today; and she has contingency plans for tomorrow, in case things get worse.

WEIMER: Making sure that we can have accessible rooms that have power; or have generators brought in, to take care of the power issues.

FESSLER: And that, generally, seems to be the case - election officials making adjustments. Connecticut extended its in-person voter registration deadline, which had been tomorrow until Thursday evening.

Michael McDonald, of George Mason University, tracks early voting trends. He says if power is out only a day or two, the effect on voting should be minimal.

MICHAEL MCDONALD: If it's a longer impact, then it can actually affect people's behaviors because they may not have another opportunity to vote. And then in that situation, we might actually see decreases in turnout.

FESSLER: Although, he says, early voting is not widely used in any of the states in the region, with the exception of Ohio; parts of which could feel the storm's impact. McDonald says a bigger concern might be all the last-minute election preparations that have been put on hold; things such as poll-worker training, and the testing of voting machines - everything needed for smooth sailing on Election Day.

Pam Fessler, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.