President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney

President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney (Getty Images)

How will Sandy affect early voting in Virginia, North Carolina?

Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast, leaving fatalities and destruction in its wake, but now the question of how much early and absentee voting will be affected for the rapidly approaching presidential election on November 6 is coming into sharp focus.

In Virginia, the board of elections has suspended in person absentee voting (Virginia does not have early voting) in nine localities, including in Northern Virginia because of power and in other parts of the state because of flooding and snow.

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But Nikki Sheridan, confidential policy advisor for the Virginia board of elections, says she doesn’t expect the interruptions to have a major effect on voting because residents have been sending in their absentee ballots since September 21.

“The absentee voting hours will also be extended,” Sheridan says, noting that while the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, it will be extended to the next full day that the suspended sites are up and running again. She says voters should check with their locality for complete information.

In North Carolina, North Carolina Board of Election Executive Director Gary Bartlett told POLITICO that the state has seen flooding in the Northeast and blizzard conditions in the mountains but that it will be ready.

“We were relatively fortunate as it related to the inclement weather,” he said.

It’s unclear how much early voting in North Carolina was affected, although the state as of Sunday had exceeded expectations up to that point by recording 251,000 more early votes than in 2008. “We may have a drop-off due to the weather, but we’re monitoring it,” Bartlett said.

The respective campaigns, meanwhile, say they’re focused on making sure those affected by Sandy are receiving help.

“Our hearts go out to people of New York, New Jersey and the Eastern seaboard, says Yohana de la Torre, national Hispanic spokeswoman for the Romney campaign. “We’re taking it day by day and not focusing on any type of campaigning. Our first and only concern is the safety and well being of these people that have been devastated by this storm.”

President Obama has declared major disasters in New York and New Jersey and plans to travel to New Jersey on Wednesday. He pledged that the federal government would do all it could to help local governments dealing with the damage.

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