In other areas not affected by the storm, a host of factors could have contributed to waning voter enthusiasm, Gans said. The 2012 race was one of the nastiest in recent memory, leaving many voters feeling turned off. With Democrats weary from a difficult four years and Republicans splintered by a divisive primary, neither party was particularly enthused about their own candidate. Stricter voting restrictions adopted by many states may also have kept some voters away from the polls.
"Beyond the people with passion, we have a disengaged electorate," Gans said. "This was a very tight race, there were serious things to be decided."
Decided they were - by the millions of voters who, in many cases, braved all kinds of inconveniences to make sure their voices were heard.
Some voters in South Carolina's Richland County waited more than four hours to vote, and leaders from both parties blamed the delays on broken voting machines. Officials in Virginia and New Hampshire reported many voters were still waiting to vote when polls closed in the evening. In major battleground states like Ohio and Florida, lines snaked back and forth as voters waited patiently to cast their ballots.
"I've been waiting for four years to cast this vote," said Robert Dan Perry, 64, as he did so for Romney in Zebulon, N.C.
Both Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made voter turnout a top priority in the waning days of an intensely close race. But for months leading up to Election Day, both candidates were obsessed with that tiny sliver of undecided voters.
It may be that those who were still undecided Tuesday decided just not to show up, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"Everyone was talking about how the Democrats are unenthusiastic and the Republicans are fired up," Kondik said. "It sounds like that was all talk."
One bright spot this year was the number of early and mail-in ballots cast. Before polls opened on Election Day, more than 32 million people had voted, either by mail or in person, in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In a number of states, including Iowa, Maryland and Montana, early voting appeared to far exceed totals from 2008.