Hurricane Sandy Forces Poll Closures

Voters wait in line despite rains from Hurricane Sandy to vote on the last early voting Sunday before election day, in New Bern, N.C., on Oct. 28, 2012. Early voting ends in Craven County on November 3.

The hurricane-strength storm swirling toward the East Coast has forced everything from schools to federal government offices to close.

Now Hurricane Sandy has also thrown a wrench in early voting, forcing the closure of polling locations in several states.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that polls would be open until 6 p.m. on Sunday, but closed on Monday. Early voting in the state was set to end Thursday, but that will likely be rescheduled to Friday, he said at a news conference.

The Baltimore Sun reported long lines at early voting locations across the state as voters tried to stay ahead of the storm. Early voting is relatively new in the state -- the state implemented the practice in 2010 -- but voter outreach and the presidential election have made it popular.

Early voting was also suspended Monday in Washington, D.C. All non-emergency federal employees were asked to stay home and public transportation services were stopped. Early voting had started on Saturday in the District.

Early and absentee voting in swing states could also be impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The storm could hit states as far west as Ohio, a battleground with no-excuse absentee voting and early voting. The Obama campaign has been urging people filling out absentee ballots to mail them as soon as possible to avoid any delays.

Early voting in Virginia and Pennsylvania, two of the states in Sandy's path, is by absentee mail-in ballot, but the State Board of Elections in Virginia is now allowing people who qualify for absentee voting to do so in-person.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy sent out a tweet extending the state's voter-registration deadline. "Gov. Malloy will sign an executive order tonight extending voter registration deadline to 8 p.m. Thurs, Nov. 1. Original deadline was Tuesday," said the tweet, sent on Sunday.

Google's Politics and Elections page has a helpful voter registration tool with information on voting by mail where available. And the National Conference of State Legislatures has a map of early voting and absentee voting options by state.

The U.S. Postal Service also canceled FedEx transportation to locations in Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC on Monday.

The storm is expected to hit the region hardest on Monday and Tuesday, which means the weekend before the election should be storm-free. While early voting is well underway in many states, with some seeing record turnout, many community groups and churches organize trips to the polls on the Saturday and Sunday prior to the election. Many African-Americans churches also organize "souls to the polls" drives following Sunday services.

Whether the storm will have a lasting impact on the election's outcome is hard to determine, but Sandy has already succeeded in making it more difficult for some people on the East Coast to cast ballots.

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