Explainer: How to Vote After Sandy

Thursday, November 01, 2012

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:

→ Don't Have A Fax or Scanner? Hello Fax Free Faxing | iPhone Scanner Apps | Scanner Apps for Droid | FedEX Kinko's Locations

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. :

• 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

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

      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 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.


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                  Comments [27]

                  Sara from chelsea

                  Oh my not brian lehrer again.....

                  Nov. 06 2012 07:47 PM
                  April from Manhattan

                  I voted at the usual wonderful public school. Love the kids' art! A long wait in a crowded, confused, noisy room, though everyone seemed in a good mood, except one poll worker who seemed to have had enough. It was two PM. There was no privacy in the booth, not that it mattered, the print was really small, and though I scanned my ballot and the machine said, "Your vote was counted," I got no piece of paper to prove I had. Should I have? I much preferred the old machines. Machines use less energy and are more reliable. Computers are eminently hackable! Don't trust them, and miss that satisfying klunk you just offered on WNYC. Mayor Bloomberg just said "People get angry after no hot coffee," about the poor folks in those public housing towers. Odd that Wall St was bailed out immediately. Wonder if his tech city dream in Dumbo will survive his sudden realization that climate change might be true?

                  Nov. 06 2012 05:35 PM
                  David from New Hyde Park, Nassau County

                  Nothing heroic was required for me to cast my vote.

                  This was my first time voting at my new voting site, my old grade school, Parkville School in New Hyde Park, Nassau county.

                  I walked to the school with my polling place notification post card just in case. The site was lit and warm. I brought reading with me just in case. It was unnecessary: I was in and out in about 5 minutes about noon.

                  Nov. 06 2012 04:41 PM
                  Dan from Washington Heights, Manhattan,

                  My voting expeirence in Washington Heights, Manhattan, was very normal Took me only half an hour to vote (start to finish). That's what happens when you live at the highest point in MAnhattan (265 ft. abouve sea level).

                  The voting result in Dix Hills Notch, NH, was 5 for Obama and 5 for Romney. A preview of how close the vote will be on a national scale.

                  I believe the voting will be so close in enough states that there will be multiple requests to Secretaries of State to have recounts and the electoral college count will not be final by Wednesday at 0001 hours.

                  What do you think?

                  Nov. 06 2012 10:54 AM
                  Stephan from Queens NY

                  I still find it so difficult to comprehend that in US-of-A in 2012 can’t get its act together when it comes to voting for the most powerful person in the world. When the various political party in this country goes to great length to deter citizens from voting, how could you call this a Democracy? And what’s up with these states’ rights for voting? During a national election why can’t we have the federal government make the rules instead of the state. Where is ex-president Carter when we need him to monitor his own country like he has done in the past when corrupt 3rd word countries are voting for their leaders?

                  Nov. 06 2012 10:49 AM
                  Nik from Jersey City

                  Any suggestions?! I recently moved to the east coast from California. I was mot able to pick up my Mail in ballot due to Sandy. I have it as of the morning, however, the envelope needs to be in California by today (not going to happen). Any ideas what I can do? I called the voters office in Cal, and they stand by the due date of today :( .

                  Nov. 06 2012 10:40 AM
                  Alyssa from Manhattan, East Village

                  My voting experience this morning at 33 Third Avenue in Manhattan was very disappointing. I was without electricity all of last week due to Hurricane Sandy and my building is still without heat, so I am staying with a friend in the East Village in my heat is restored. When I heard that Governor Cuomo had issued an executive order that would permit me to vote at a more convenient polling station right around the corner from where I am temporarily staying, I decided to take advantage of that opportunity. I arrived at 6:15 am at the 33 Third Avenue polling location ("33 location")and was the only voter there when I arrived. I explained my situation, at which time the polling volunteer told me that I needed to go to my designated polling location and that I shouldn't be voting at the 33 location. I told her that Gov. Cuomo's order permitted me to vote at any polling station regardless of the circumstances. She maintained that I could not vote that the 33 location. Meanwhile three more voters had come in after me who - two of whom were supposed to vote at the 33 location but whose names could not be found in the list of registered voters, one of whom had been told by another location to come to the 33 location -- ALL OF WHOM were being told that they could not vote at the 33 location by this particular individual. I advised that I would be filing a complaint with the Board of Elections that they were turning away voters contrary to the governor's order. Only then was I allowed to proceed with voting by affidavit. Once I filled out the ballot and affidavit and handed it to the election official, the official had no idea how to complete the affidavit form - I had to point out to her where she was supposed to complete the form and initial. I stood with two others who had also voted by affidavit waiting to ensure that our affidavits were finalized, but the election official just pushed our affidavits to the side to help other incoming voters. I did not have time to wait, so I was left with no option but to leave not knowing whether my vote was finalized and counted. My experience this morning is a miscarriage of democracy and an embarrassment to the American system of governance which is supposed to be an example to the world. Our voting system is antiquated and completely out of touch with improvement that today's technology offers. Moreover, it has been my experience voting in New York City that the individuals operating the voting polls are ill-trained, ill-mannered and adversarial to the point that it makes me want to avoid the situation entirely (though I would never choose not to vote). I imagine that I am not alone in my sentiments as I heard grumblings from others at the 33 location. I will be issuing a complaint with the Board of Elections, and I am considering volunteering to man a voting poll for future elections. It is absurd that USA, the proclaimed bastion of democracy operates its voting polls in such a dysfunctional manner.

                  Nov. 06 2012 10:22 AM
                  Linda from Bloomfield NJ

                  Can an NJ based First Responder vote at an NY polling location?

                  Nov. 06 2012 08:46 AM
                  Mitchell Berstell from Queens

                  Mitt Romney lies when his mouth opens,
                  Spouting any cliché for your vote.
                  No integrity under the haircut;
                  For Commander and Chief just say Nope!

                  Nov. 06 2012 02:12 AM
                  culprit from brooklyn

                  Thanks Board of Elections! With thousands living without transportation to the polling places (not to mention without power) you'd think you could allow them to mail in absentee ballots after Nov. 5. Or let volunteers hand deliver absentee ballots for those who can't make it to the polls. But that would make voting too easy, and we wouldn't want that! Certainly the Repugnicans don't want that. Who's the Board of Elections working for, anyway?

                  Nov. 05 2012 08:07 PM
                  norman scovronick from Brooklyn til winter

                  I am an avid listener and a supporter of WNYC. I will vote for Obama tomorrow. I have often supported your "neutralish" position on the presidential race to others. I will no longer do so. Your broadcasts of today and yesterday became as frantic as the candidates. The brutish support of President Obama and the bringing up of every anti-Romney phrase and smear tarnished your reputation for fairness, in addition to any hint of impartiality. I can see how the Republicans are for removing any support for public broadcasting.

                  Nov. 05 2012 05:07 PM
                  Lynne from Lower Manhattan from NYC

                  I live in lower Manhattan near WNYC and was visiting a friend in lower Westchester when the Sandy hit. The power got turned back on, but since I have serious medical problems and mass transit is still a mess, I cannot take the chance on getting stuck in massive crowds in the subway. I have watched every news show broadcast and cable, looked on the Bd of Elections site, listened to WNYC, and nowhere does it explain how to vote if you are outside your county because of the storm. I have talked to friends in other countries and they are amazed that I am having this problem. I called the Board of Elections and asked one worker if I could d/l the ballot for my district and just hand it in up here in Westchester and she passed me on to another worker's voice mail.. and so here I wait

                  Nov. 05 2012 04:53 PM
                  Jill Arbuckle from Little Falls, Passaic County, NJ

                  Re NJ "e-mail" voting. 1. You have to go thru the print/fill out/scan/send routine just to get the application sent in 2. county clerk e-mail addresses are NOT given in the page linked to; you need to go to the county home page, & click on the County Clerk page 3. I e-mailed my application Sat. at 9pm. I still (11:30am Monday) don't have the ballot - and county election officials were ordered to work through the weekend.

                  Going to your regular polling place (the one you can walk to if you don't have gas), and demanding that provision be made for you to vote, would seem the safer way to avoid being disfranchised.

                  Nov. 05 2012 11:35 AM
                  Suzel Stampleman

                  What should people do toget information about votingif they don't haveacomputer/internet access and/ordon't listen to the Brian L show ???

                  Nov. 05 2012 11:26 AM

                  My friends were in Zone A and left town to stay with family in upstate NY. They are 3-hours away and their place here is still without power. What are their options?

                  Nov. 05 2012 10:42 AM
                  Jamie Klenetsky from Morris County

                  A heads up that there were polling place changes in Morris County due to the storm, here's the list:

                  Nov. 05 2012 09:02 AM
                  Connie ODonnell from Garnet Valley, PA

                  I am visting my daughter in CA for my grandson's birthday party and made the arrangements awhile ago, not thinking about election day taken place during my absence. I am very concerned that I will not be able to vote because I am registered in Delaware County, Pa and am ineligible for absentee ballots and could not vote ahead of time in our state. Is there anything I can do?

                  Nov. 04 2012 06:54 PM
                  Rebecca from Brooklyn

                  Thanks -- was able to find new polling site using the BOE website, but the sample ballot it provides seems based on the location, not on my actual district. Is this happening to anyone else?

                  Nov. 04 2012 06:38 PM
                  drumknuncle from Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

                  " NO EXCUSES - VOTE ANYWAY." ;-D...

                  Nov. 04 2012 05:39 PM
                  Dita from France

                  What about those of us who won't be in the city and applied for absentee ballots long before the deadline and didn't receive them because of sandy related delays. How do we vote??? I wasn't able to get through to the BOE last week and I'm sure they have their hands full. But if anyone has information on this . . . .

                  Nov. 04 2012 04:20 PM
                  KC Gargan from Seneca Falls, NY

                  I live at the Jersey Shore (Monmouth County) and thankfully was spared except for a broken window. I decided to head to my hometown in upstate NY with my kids and where there is heat and power. Is there any way I can vote from up here by absentee ballot? What provisions are being made for late voting for people in my situation?

                  Nov. 03 2012 03:22 PM

                  people in the devistated areas should be able to vote on a later date after power has been restored who cares if it takes a act of congress to change the date . These are human lives. That is what congress is suppost to be doing working for the citizens of this country.

                  Nov. 03 2012 05:27 AM
                  Beth from Woodside

                  I was able to vote early at Queens County Board of Elections yesterday, as I am going to be out of town on election day. The process was quite simple, even though they didn't have any computers. I filled out a form, was taken upstairs, waiting about 5 minutes while they retrieved my ballot, and then I filled it out and sealed it myself with a glue stick. All in all about 15 minutes. Made even easier because I was able to take the F train.
                  So, you should not do early voting if you are not eligible, but if you are eligible please go now rather than miss your chance to vote. The office is extremely well prepared, the wait was minimal, and the experience was quite pleasant.
                  Thank you Queens Board of Elections!

                  Nov. 02 2012 10:54 AM

                  Can you report on how volunteers might be able to assist voters whose usual pollling stations are closed?

                  Nov. 01 2012 05:38 PM
                  Julie from Manhattan

                  Thanks so much for your reporting on the post-Sandy voting issue. I've been trying to find information for two days from virtually all of my elected representatives as well as from the New York State information and I've been met with a combination of misinformation and no information. As directed by the New York State Board of Elections in Albany, I went to 200 Varick yesterday to obtain and vote an absentee ballot; not surprisingly, no one was there. This morning I happily voted at 450 33rd Street, 10th Floor. It was quick and efficient and I am so glad I got to vote before leaving town tonight.

                  Nov. 01 2012 03:47 PM
                  Tom from Manhattan

                  What are the hours for the city BOE locations that are open?

                  Nov. 01 2012 01:52 PM
                  Nathan from Brooklyn

                  I've been waiting for an absentee ballot from MA - if it doesn't arrive, can I vote in New York? I lived here two years ago...

                  Nov. 01 2012 01:38 PM

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