Will Hurricane Sandy affect the national election?
The worst of Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the coast of New Jersey sometime on Monday, October 29. At its peak, tropical storm force winds may reach from Boston into North Carolina and west to central Pennsylvania. Millions of people are expected to lose power with some predictions suggesting the blackout may last a week or more. In addition, many people living in flood prone areas will have been evacuated and may not have returned home by Election Day.
We are contacting several Boards of Elections in the region endangered by Hurricane Sandy to obtain their outlook on the effects on the election and their plans if that occurs. Here are two responses that have been received thus far.
Allison E. Kobus
Office of the Lt. Governor
State of New Jersey
The state and county elections offices, as well as the state and county Offices of Emergency Management are on alert that the storm could potentially impact some polling places.
However, if that should happen each site would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis following the storm, to ensure that New Jersey voters have access to the polls on Election Day.
Public Information Office
NYS Board of Elections
Each county has its own disaster preparedness plan. The State Board assists in coordinating resources with State and local emergency personnel like additional generators or transportation of machines or voters, etc. The voting machines have batteries which allow for operation during limited power outages, then to generators where needed. We have reminded the local boards to review their plans, prepare to assess whether any polling sites need to be moved, have a plan to contact poll workers and/or voters, take steps to secure equipment and ballots, confirm contact information for key local emergency officials, workers, poll site coordinators, and other stakeholders should the need arise.
State Election Law allows for an additional day of voting no later 20 days from the original election day if a natural disaster prevents voting in any jurisdiction in the state. But as much of the election as can happen on election day will happen.
We are being prudent but we anticipate that the storm will pass early enough in the week to have minimal impact on the election. Most local boards do not distribute machines to the poll sites until the weekend before the election, so they should be safe in their respective warehouses until taken out.
Virginia and Pennsylvania are considered up for grabs by either Presidential candidate. Any problems with voting or with counting the votes could be critical for the candidates and the election. Virginia State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer released this statement yesterday about the potential of Hurricane Sandy affecting the voting in his state.
The State Board of Elections (SBE) is closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and working to minimize any potential impact the storm has on absentee voting and preparations for the November General Election. The agency has been coordinating with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management in conjunction with the Emergency Operations Center, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, and major utility providers. SBE is in close communication with Virginia’s 134 general registrars and electoral boards to monitor developments at the local level and provide guidance and support to the localities as necessary.
The press release goes on to say:
SBE has been assured that the Commonwealth’s general registrar offices and more than 2,500 polling places will be given a high priority for restoration of power following the storm, if required, to ensure that there is no disruption to the conduct of the election. Many localities have local arrangements for alternative power sources including generators and other emergency power backups. Electronic voting machines are equipped with backup batteries, and there is also the option of using paper ballots as a last resort. Finally, Virginia law permits local electoral boards to request that the State Board of Elections grant an emergency polling place relocation in the event that there are any lingering power issues or other reason that prevent the use of the normal polling place on Election Day.
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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 28th, 2012 at 9:43 am and is filed under Politics, American Politics, Disasters, Disasters, Hurricane Sandy, Original writing, Original writing, Reporting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.