Explainer: How to Vote After Sandy

As the region has focused on recovery efforts post-Sandy, local election officials have been working to make sure polling locations have power, displaced voters have access to absentee ballots, and any changes to polling locations gets communicated to a distracted public.  

Many of the new workarounds involve using faxes or scanners. Here's a list of how to scan or fax ballots:

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Here’s a round up of what’s happening across the region and what you can do to make sure your vote is counted.

New York City

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. statewide.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Monday that allows voters in federally-declared disaster counties to cast affidavit ballots for president and statewide office at any polling site in New York.  The order applies to all voters in New York City, along with Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland counties. But people who vote by affidavit ballot outside their neighborhood will not be able to vote in congressional or state legislative races if they are not at their polling site.

The New York City Board of Elections spent the week surveying poll sites in flood-damaged areas across the city.  Early Sunday, the Board announced changes to 66 poll sites in all five boroughs.  The bulk of those changes are to sites in Brooklyn and Queens.  Many of those are supersites that consolidate multiple poll sites into one location. New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said the city may have to resort to erecting tents and using generators for temporary polling places.

Voters can visit the board's website or use the polling site locator to search by residential address on the NYC BOE website.   

Voters can also get a text message with their poll site information by sending a text to “NYCVOTES” to 877-877.

Message and data rates may still apply. Voters can text ‘STOP’ to opt out of further messages.
 Spanish speakers can text "DONDE" to 877-877 to receive information in Spanish.

The MTA will operate voter shuttles to carry voters from polling places that were damaged in the Storm to to alternate sites established by the Board of Elections on Staten Island, in Coney Island and in the Rockaways.

These free shuttles will run every 15 to 20 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The buses will be marked "MTA Voter Shuttle." 

If a voter did not mail an absentee ballot on Monday, it must be dropped off to the Board of Elections Borough offices by the time the polls close at 9 p.m. :

Manhattan
• 450 West 33rd Street - To Pick Up Ballots and Vote In Person
• 200 Varick Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10014 - To Mail Absentee Ballots
Phone: 212-465-0503
Fax: 212-465-2135

    Queens
    126-06 Queens Boulevard
    Phone: 718-730-6730
    Fax: 718-459-3384                   

      Brooklyn
      345 Adams Street, 4th Floor
      Phone: 718-797-8800
      Fax: 718-246-5958                            

        The Bronx
        1780 Grand Concourse
        Phone: 718-299-9017
        Fax: 718-299-2140                                              

          Staten Island
          1 Edgewater Plaza, 4th Floor,   Staten Island
          Phone: 718-876-0079
          Fax: 718-439-6018

          The 311 call center also has the updates poll site list and can respond to NYC voting questions.

              New Jersey

              Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

              On Saturday, the Christie administration announced that displaced voters could vote by email. It is not as simple as clicking a box, though. Voters must submit an electronic application to their county clerk by fax or email - and not all clerks' offices list emails on their websites. Once verified, voters will receive a ballot by email that they must then print and send back a scanned copy via email or fax by 8 p.m. on Friday, November 9.

              The state also announced that any voter displaced from their polling site will be able to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, even if they are at a polling location in a different county.

              In New Jersey, all voters can cast ballots early at local election offices through Monday. The state has ordered local county clerk and election offices to stay open through the weekend to accommodate these early voters. A list of locations for early in-person voting in all New Jersey counties is here.

              On Election Day, power outages and flood will likely force polling places to move in New Jersey. As changes come in, the state will update the polling location finder on its website. Voters can also text WHERE to 877-877 to access their latest polling information, but state officials suggest waiting until Monday evening because final polling sites may change as neighborhoods continue to regain power.

              For voters who have already received ballots by mail but cannot deliver them in person to a county office, the state will authorize ballot "messengers" to deliver ballots from state-supported shelters. The state has also extended the deadline for county clerks to receive mail-in ballots until November 19, 2012, but ballots must be postmarked on or before November 5, 2012.

              Bergen County election officials are relocating approximately 90 polling stations in 36 towns as a result of damage by Sandy, according to Bergen County Board of Elections Chairwoman Eileen K. DeBari.

              The state's largest utility, PSE&G, is reporting that full power will not be restored for 7 to 10 days, so many polling stations will not be operational in time for Tuesday's election.

              All voters in Bergen County are expected to be able to vote in their hometown, with the exception of residents of hard-hit Moonachie. Those voters will need to travel to Bergen County Technical School at 504 E. U.S. 46 in Teterboro.

              Bergen County Board of Elections Chairwoman Eileen K. DeBari tells WNYC that the Board has been working in their office – without power – since Wednesday trying to develop contingency plans, including consolidating poll sites and moving others to alternative locations.

              Local towns began making reverse 911 calls to notify voters of their new polling location, and notices will be posted at the abandoned sites. There still may be changes to poll site locations up through Monday morning, but DeBari said that’s where they draw the line.

              “Our job is to make sure the voters of Bergen County go out and vote,” said DeBari. She acknowledged that some voters will be inconvenienced because they’re not going to be voting in their normal poll site.  “But this is what we have to work with and this is what we’re doing.” 

              Bergen County
              One Bergen County Plaza, Room 130
              Hackensack, NJ
              Phone: 201-336-7000
               
              Passaic County
              401 Grand St # 130  
              Paterson, NJ 07505
              Phone: 973-881-4127

              In hard-hit Ocean County along the coast, where hundreds of residents were evacuated, local elections officials have been putting in long hours to restore access to early voting and to try to prepare for Election Day.   

              They are just beginning to assess how many of its 250 polling sites will be usable come Tuesday. “Right now, many, many locations are without power, not to mention the ones damaged beyond repair,” said Ocean County assistant election supervisor Jason Varano.

              All voters in New Jersey can vote early by mail or in local county offices; no reason for needed to vote absentee is required. In Ocean County, requests for these early ballots were up from 2008 before Sandy hit. Officials had to close one of those early voting sites after it lost power, but it extended hours at its Toms River, it is working to reopen an early voting site in the county’s southern end in Stafford Township.

              “Our big attempt is anyone who wants to vote and would normally vote this way, and now we want to open it up,” Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella said Wednesday. “We’re trying to encourage everybody in the county who may have a polling place moved and may be confused by that.”

              For some, it’s been an emotionally overwhelming. The woman answering phones at the Ocean county elections board broke down as she talked about wanting to make sure people knew how to vote in the midst of the chaos.

              County Clerk Colabella called it “a great diversion” after he was evacuated from Long Beach Island over the weekend. “I don’t even know the status of my home.”

              So it's been heartening, he said, to see people still making it a priority to come vote. “It’s hard to get gasoline, most of the people are without power, but 38 people have come today to cast a ballot.”

              Long Island

              Local officials are investigating the possibility of getting generators in place to help power polling locations. Nassau County has 376 polling site, including 68 in flood zones.

              As in other storm-affected areas, it has been difficult to assess the scope of the challenge for Tuesday because of communication and transportation difficulties.

              "We have no way of knowing right now,” Nassau County Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said in a Newsday article published on Wednesday. “We have emergency contacts but people aren't answering their phones." We have emergency contacts but people aren't answering their phones."

              Voters can track any changes to their polling place at the New York State Board of elections website.

              The superstorm prompted cancellations of poll worker trainings in Nassau County. Suffolk County began delivering voting machines to unaffected polling locations on Wednesday, and Nassau County planned to begin the process on Thursday.

              Storm-related challenges are grounds for voting absentee in both counties, Newsday reported. To request an absentee ballot on Friday, voters need to fax a signed absentee ballot application to the county Board of Elections office and mail the signed application back to the office by Monday, or can vote in person at the addresses below: 

              Naussau County
              240 Old Country Road, 5th Floor, Mineola, NY 11501
              Phone: 516-571-2411
              Fax: 516-571-2058

                Election officials continue to survey polling sites in Suffolk County.  As of November 3,  officials have moved 7 sites into new or consolidated locations.  The Board of Elections office has also extended its hours for absentee voting.

                Suffolk County 
                700 Yaphank Ave.,   Yaphank, NY 11980
                Phone: 631-852-4500
                Fax: 631-852-4590      

                  Westchester, the Hudson Valley and the Rest of New York

                  Tens of thousands of utility customers in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties remained without power on Wednesday, and county officials are continuing to assess the backup power and relocation needs.

                  Across the state, voters have until Monday to submit absentee ballots in person at county board of election office locations, which can be found here.  

                  Even in the immediate aftermath of the storm, voters are trickling in to do just that. “On Tuesday, the day after the storm, we were sitting in the office with no power and at least seven people came by to drop off absentee ballots,” Rockland County Commissioner Louis Babcock told Newsday.

                  The Orange County Board of Elections has already announced changes to two of its polling sites.

                  These changes will remain in place even if power comes back on at the affected sites.

                  The Board is also encouraging displaced voters who can’t get to their poll site on Tuesday to go to the county office to vote in person with an absentee ballot.

                  Orange County
                  25 Court Lane in Goshen, NY
                  Phone: 845-291-2444.

                  If you're still having trouble finding your polling information, check with this nation-wide polling place locator. There is also a hotline to assist New York voters statewide with questions about voting, poll site changes and absentee ballots. The number is 1-855-NYS-SANDY (1-855-697-7263).

                  ON ELECTION DAY

                  If voters do experience problems at the polls on Election Day, several good government groups are making tools and resources to help voters.

                  • The New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause/NY will also be running a nonpartisan Voter Help Line on Election Day.  Voters can call to find out where their poll site is located, get advice on voting rights, and report problems at the polls.  Help Line number: 212-822-0282
                  • Election Protection is a nonpartisan coalition of lawyers and volunteers who assist voters facing issues on Election Day.  Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund)
                  • PollWatchUSA is a mobile website and crowdsourcing tool to monitor problems at poll sites.  Voters with a smart phone can log on to report a problem. The information is then reviewed by election protection workers at Common Cause/NY, who will relay the information to the national Election Protection effort and, if necessary, the local Board of Elections. At the same time, the location of the report will be mapped onto the PollWatchUSA website accessible at pollwatchusa.org. All reports received will be reviewed to determine trends and further action. In the event of an emergency, PollWatchUSA offers the option to connect voters to the Common Cause/NY election protection hotline where they can receive immediate assistance.