With Board of Elections Scrambling After Sandy, Groups Push for Provisional Ballots

A voting booth set up at a school in the East Village earlier today. (Photo: Getty)

Trying to figure out where to vote tomorrow? You’re not alone: with the presidential elections and several local races being voted on tomorrow, the state is at a loss of how to deal with the thousands of displaced citizens who no longer have a place to cast their ballot–nor any information on how to do so. Several good government groups believe an expanded provisional ballot program could improve the chaotic situation, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to approve the proposal. With less than 24 hours to go before the election, homeless shelters are overflowing with residents from all different boroughs, poll sites are changing by the hour and voting machines have not arrived at their designated locations. (And if they do, there’s no guarantee there will be electricity.) It’s no wonder the NYC Board of Elections is having a tough time. As of an hour ago, BOE’s website was unable to tell people about changes to their polling locations. Nor were they able to tell you whether you are registered to vote. (Though both functions are now operational again, for the time being.)

A source who was down at the BOE headquarters (which have been relocated in Manhattan to 450 West 33rdStreet) described the scene as “chaotic.”

“It was mobbed. Employees were screaming at people trying to get information on where to cast their ballot tomorrow.”

Susan Lerner of the nonpartisan lobbying group Common Cause  is currently sending volunteers to canvas homeless shelters in an effort to organize for tomorrow’s election. But with a lack of cars to drive people to the polling destinations (as well as the general confusion of where to vote, especially if you’ve been placed in a different borough post-Hurricane), she’s calling the situation, “The opposite of the best of times.”

Some good government groups believe the situation can be mitigated if Governor Cuomo will allow affidavit ballots, which would make it legal for people displaced from their communities to to vote at any polling place within New York State. New Jersey has already adopted this measure.

Common Cause, the Election Protection Coalition and several other groups are currently lobbying Governor Cuomo to allow the ballots. With less than fourteen hours left until polls are scheduled to open tomorrow, time will tell whether he decides to take action.

With Board of Elections Scrambling After Sandy, Groups Push for Provisional Ballots