Flood victims face major hurdles as voting begins
NORTH CAROLINA: As Keith and Felicia Scott looked at the ruins of their flooded-out house in North Carolina, the mold growing up the walls and the loose floorboards lying waterlogged at their feet, the presidential election was about the furthest thing from their minds. “I know it’s something we need to focus on, but it’s kind of hard to focus on that when you’ve got all this going on,” said Keith Scott, a 49-year-old state prison employee who lives outside Lumberton, one of the areas inundated by Hurricane Matthew nearly two weeks ago. “Right now, you’ve got to find a place to live.”
Of the 130 million Americans expected to cast ballots this year, the thousands of people in North Carolina whose lives have been upended by the flooding face some of the biggest challenges. As in-person, early voting began Thursday in the state, some roads were still impassable, bridges were washed out, and untold numbers of people were still out of their homes. Many were busy just trying to put their lives back together.
Some of the most heavily damaged areas are largely Democratic with a high concentration of black voters, and there are concerns the disarray might depress turnout and sway the outcome of the White House race in this battleground state, where polls suggest a tight race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump and where Barack Obama beat John McCain in 2008 by a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.
The hurricane dumped more than a foot of rain up to 100 miles inland, triggering severe flooding across a large area of eastern North Carolina. Towns such as Lumberton and Tarboro were inundated. As of Tuesday, more than 1,000 people were in emergency shelters; others were staying with family or friends, their homes uninhabitable.
The Scotts said they still hope to vote. Others sounded determined to do so. In Tarboro, where signs block drivers from getting into some neighborhoods and piles of damaged drywall, carpet, couches and other belongings line the sidewalks, 30-year-old Cordell Pettaway and his mother have a lot of work ahead of them before they can move back into their home in a historic black neighborhood: pulling up subflooring, removing wet furnishings and eventually getting the electricity turned back on. —AP