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Election Officials Scramble to Power Polls

Lack of electricity will impact polls come Election Day, officials say.

Sandy's wind and rain are long-over, but the superstorm's wake may have a major impact on the next big story—Election Day.

With over one-hundred-thousand customers still in the dark throughout Westchester, a string of polling places in the county remain without power. Schools, churches and municipal buildings where residents usually cast their electronic ballots are without juice—and may be so for some time.

"Over 150 of Westchester's 380 polling places are without power," Tajian Jones, a spokeswoman with the county's Board of Elections, told Patch Friday at 1:30 p.m. "Some are slowly coming back."

Jones said county officials are currently hashing out contingency plans, but nothing has been finalized.

"We may merge some polling locations together," Jones said, noting one spot without power may be absorbed by a nearby voting place with electricity.

Westchester has been communicating with the State Board of Elections as well, and had hoped to secure generators—but high demand means the portable power may not materialize.

"Because of Sandy, the need is all over the place," Jones said. The board also considered purchasing generators themselves, but just about all retailers are sold out, Jones added.

Polls are open Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The New York State Board of Elections has extended its absentee ballot deadline, allowing away-from-home voters to send in their choices by Nov. 2. The deadline in usually Oct. 30.

ConEd, who has workers in Westchester's streets scrambling to return power to customers, said no special preference is being given to polling stations.

"Our strategy is to focus on equipment that will return power to the most people," said Sarah Banda, a spokeswoman for the power company.

And while that strategy may help a handful of polling posts get up and running by Tuesday, it's coincidence, not special attention.

Some residents are hoping to avoid the polls entirely—in Briarcliff Manor, officials told Patch people in the area are seeking absentee ballots.

While nearby Putnam County is anticipating a relatively normal Election Day, Rockland County is seeing issues similar to Westchester's. The Rockland Board of Elections said 68 of the county's 80 polling places were powerless as of Thursday afternoon.

"Right now we are in contact with the state, requesting emergency generators," said Lou Babcock, one of the county's election commissioners. Babcock is also seeking lights, power cords and gasoline to run the generators.

If voting locations do not have power to run the ballot scanners, election officials will store the ballot sheets in a locked container, and feed them through the machines at a later date or different location, Babcock said.

"There could be a two to three day delay," he added.

Babcock says shuttering a polling site would be a last-ditch plan.

"We are not looking at closing any of the polling sites," he said. "If we do have to, there will be signage on our website, and we will communicate through radio and TV—but most people without electricity don't have radio or TV, so they wont know until they're at polling sites."

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Sami November 05, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I agree, they should open polling places now to give everyone ample time to get where they need to be and vote. Many polling places have changed, and with power still out in many places and gas hard to come by, it would be worthwhile to open polls early and allow people to organize car pools, etc to get to the polls and vote. No one should have their right to vote taken away because of a storm!
Dan Seidel November 05, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Make the effort - GET THERE! come hell or high water, TOMORROW is vote day - we vote tomorrow! VOTE ROMNEY!!!!!! PRESERVE THE REPUBLIC!!!! VOTE FOR AMERICA!!!!! VOTE ROMNEY!!!!
joshua tanner November 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Too many states are passing too many laws concerning the vote.People want 8 days to vote - 20 days to vote -voting by smart phone - voting by fax and email - automatic extensions are granted if absentee ballots are too low (NY can add second day of voting in 20 day frame because of this). There is too much shenanigans going on with voting. If people are too dumb to vote or get an absentee ballot then I can't be worried about them. People voted for a couple hundred years with no cars, phones, bad storms etc with no problem. Now everyone wants to bend over backwards so the dummy vote is safe.
Michael Woyton November 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Cuomo announced that he signed an executive order allowing anyone to vote at any polling place and it will be counted. You, of course, will be able to vote for the statewide and national races but not for the local if it's not your regular polling place.
Mike November 06, 2012 at 12:28 AM
talk about opening the door to voter fraud. Not that it really matters in NYS- the elction was decided long ago

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