Election 2014  
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Will Superstorm Sandy Keep People From Voting?

New Jersey will offer more options, including voting this weekend. New York looks at new polling sites.

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If polling places are moved, Connelly said that every county BOE has a communications plan to inform voters. He said efforts would be made to coordinate with the local press, and revised polling locations would be posted on websites, “feeding information to everyone.” He also said that the state BOE urged counties to post a person at the former polling place to tell voters where the new location is. If that’s not possible, they should put up signs.

Connelly also said that some jurisdictions might be able to add a day of voting if turnout on Tuesday fell below 25 percent of their registered voters. There is a little-used section in state law that allows election jurisdisctions after a disaster to request an additional day of voting if the turnout drops below that level. That additional day would have to happen within 20 days of November 6 and would only be for people who were registered for the presidential election in the affected jurisdiction, he said. This would only be in-person voting—not by absentee. Those requests would be handled by the county BOE.

New Jersey

New Jersey election officials also are planning to hold the election on Tuesday.

“We are delivering the machines to the polling places. The polling places should have power by Tuesday,” said Joanne Arena, Deputy Administator for the Union County BOE. “We are actually delivering everything.”

The New Jersey Lt. Governor, which oversees state elections, issued detailed instructions on Thursday to expand voting options from Friday through Monday—allowing weekend voting at county offices and making plans to deputize an “authorized messenger” to go to “State-supported shelters” to help people vote there, if people want to vote that way. It also suspended other technicalities that would allow the state to create temporary polls near previously designated locations.

“Our office and the county clerk office wil be open all weekend long,”Arena said. “People can go to the county clerk’s office to vote. These would be mail-in ballots that would be opened on Election Day. We are allowing people to do that. I think that will make people feel more secure.”

Philadelphia

Senior election officials at Philadelphia City Hall did not return AlterNet’s calls by press time. However, lower-level staff said that while power was out in the city after the storm, it has mostly been restored and that voting in this state’s top Democratic stronghold should not be impacted by Tuesday.

Hundreds of people who are concerned about voting have come to City Hall to ask about it, one staffer said, suggesting that there was still a desire by a good portion of the public to vote regardless of the storm’s obstacles.

In Maryland and Connecticut, early voting deadlines were extended this week, also in response to the storm. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell asked his state’s county registrars to extend early voting hours into the evening this weekend.

Virginia State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer isued a statement saying, “Unless conditions render the voting process unsafe for general registrars and employees and voters, SBE encourages general registrars to keep the general registrar office open and to continue the in-person voting process.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

 
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