The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Even with Hurricane Florence over, North Carolina residents continue to feel its effects as many are still displaced or without power. These conditions not only impact the daily lives of residents but could also impact their ability to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. 

Duke Energy released a statement on Sept. 19 that estimated 1.7 million customers lost power due to Hurricane Florence. Crews have restored power to 1.6 million customers, but that leaves 114,000 customers without power. 

“Many of the remaining impacted customers are located in coastal and inland areas that experienced historic flooding, multiple road closures and significant structural damage,” the statement said. 

Last week, Tideland EMC, which serves a portion of eastern North Carolina along the coast, reported that 77 percent of its customers were without power. Tideland has not yet released updated statistics. 

Flooding of inland rivers has continued into this week. The National Weather Service said in a briefing that significant river flooding will continue, meaning some residents of flooded areas will still not be able to return home. 

“Expect continued river flooding and lingering impacts from the significant rainfall to persist for several days or more, especially across the east and southeast portions of central N.C.,” the briefing stated. “Real flooding and standing water is occurring across much of central N.C.”

Although some residents can return home after the storm, voting will likely not be the first thing on their minds. The number of people that are displaced could also affect voter turnout and, in turn, election results. 

The N.C. Board of Elections released a memo on Sept. 11 describing the precautions county board of elections offices should take to ensure voting equipment and ballots were not affected by the storm. 

“If your office has flooded or has any potential for flooding, please ensure all voting equipment, electronic equipment, files and other essential items are protected from the storm,” the memo said. “If you have the ability to secure equipment or files on a higher floor, please make arrangements to do so.”

The memo asks that county offices should try to meet the Sept. 22 deadline to mail absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who have requested them. 

“If we determine that your county is unable to mail printed ballots on Sept. 21 or 22, we will institute an emergency plan for your county,” the memo said. 

During a press release on Monday, the BOE stated that it is still assessing Hurricane Florence’s damage on the county board of elections offices and impact on upcoming elections. The board has been in communication with elections officials in all 100 North Carolina counties as well as leaders of political parties.

“Most county boards of elections have been and will continue to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who have requested them,” the press release said. “The State Board office is stepping in to send out ballots for several counties that are unable to do so because their operations are affected by flooding, power and internet outages or inaccessible due to the storm.”

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