Polling places in locations hit by Hurricane Sandy may be forced to move, election officials have revealed.
With Election Day a mere week away, some voting booths have had to temporarily close. Early voting was canceled in Maryland, while in northern Virginia a number of in-person absentee voting locations were shut down after being battered by Sandy. Early voting has been suspended in six of West Virginia’s 55 counties, after the state was struck by fierce winds and heavy snow.
Those parts of the country hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, such as New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, face daunting challenges. Many locations reserved as voting sites, including a number of schools, have been left flooded in the storm’s wake.
It now seems likely such polling places will move due to Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects, with power outages another factor in the decision. As Nassau County Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte told NBC on Tuesday:
“The real issue is power. If we still have massive power outages a week from today, there are few options.”
One such alternative suggested by Biamonte involves voters completing a ballot used in the county’s optical scan machines as normal, before those ballots are transported to the county board’s office and scanned there (rather than at the polling site itself). However, this would delay the tallying of results by a day.
Similar problems are facing officials in New Jersey, with Jason Varano, assistant supervisor of the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Elections, admitting there was no concrete plan for new polling sites:
“We’re talking about relocating polling locations. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We have no plan yet. We’re taking an assessment of everything. By tomorrow night, when roads are safe to drive down, we’ll have a better assessment.”
Will polling places moving due to Hurricane Sandy have wider implications for the outcome of the election? Nobody can say for sure, but a lower-than-normal turnout in storm-affected areas of New York and New Jersey are unlikely to affect the expected victory for President Barack Obama in those two states.