Following one of the most devastating storms to hit the northeastern U.S. in recent memory, political campaigns and designated polling stations in Connecticut are struggling to recover from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.
As of Wednesday afternoon, an estimated 100 polling locations throughout the state were without power. Meanwhile, political campaigns, such as the race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon for retiring Senator Joe Lieberman’s ’64 LAW ’67 Senate seat have shifted focus from typical pre-election activities to aiding those affected by the storm. Connecticut officials said that they are working on a daily basis to solve problems that Hurricane Sandy’s destruction poses to a successful election on Nov. 6.
“Our communities are very resilient and I am confident we will be able to conduct a successful election, even in less than ideal circumstances,” said Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill in a statement.
Connecticut Light & Power reported Wednesday that approximately 100 polling locations they serve are without power. United Illuminating Company, a state electric utility for 325,000 customers, has yet to report the number of power outages in polling locations it services, according to Av Harris, the director of communications for the Secretary of the State.
New Haven’s polling stations may have been spared from any storm damage, according to city officials. In an email to the News, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said she does not expect to see any problems with polling locations or access to the polls in New Haven come Election Day. Towns along the shoreline were most damaged in the hurricane, Harris said.
Political campaigns have also shifted focus in light of the storm. Ben Mallet ’16, campaign director for the Yale College Republicans, said McMahon opened six of her 13 campaign offices to provide food and water for those struggling through the storm.
“The campaign strategy is first and foremost about helping people who got hit by the hurricane,” Mallet said. “We’re remembering why we’re in politics. It’s to help people.”
Elizabeth Larkin, communications director for the state Democratic Party, said Democrats running for office in Connecticut are also primarily worried about their constituents’ safety. When asked about how the hurricane may affect voter turnout, Larkin said, “We honestly haven’t even thought about that.”
McMahon and Murphy’s current focus on hurricane recovery has precluded them from the typical campaign pre-election routine.
“When you lose precious time in the campaign it always has an impact,” Mallet said. “Most of the volunteers are keen to get out as soon as possible.”
Connecticut State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney pointed out that some campaign mailing has been delayed, which he said may be slightly advantageous to candidates running for office in Connecticut who have fewer resources.
Hurricane Sandy also posed problems to voter registration. Gov. Dannel Malloy extended the voter registration deadline from Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. to Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. in an attempt to accommodate those who may have been inconvenienced by the hurricane. Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04 said that there are still people in Connecticut who do not have power and that, even with the extended deadline, they may be hindered in registering to vote.
The Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut held a conference call with approximately 260 voter registrars and town clerks to discuss the polling situation in their regions, Harris said. There will be another conference call tomorrow and the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut will continue to check in on locations around the state as the election draws nearer, he added.
The worst case scenario is that the paper ballots will need to be counted by hand, Harris said. He added that if polling locations need to be moved, it will likely be announced Monday.
Connecticut Light & Power serves 1.2 million customers in 149 cities and towns.