Election officials are making a variety of changes to overcome Sandy storm damage and ensure that polling places are ready for voters Tuesday.
Dealing with power outages, displaced election staff and flood damage, election officials said they are relocating polling stations, encouraging the use of mail-in ballots and bringing in mobile polling stations.
Cape May County’s Board of Elections Registrar, Michael Kennedy, said that only one station, the Ocean City Yacht Club, had debilitating storm damage. Ward One, District One residents had been scheduled to vote there.
“We had to move that,” he said. “It was underwater throughout the storm, and it’s in no shape for Election Day. So that polling district will be in the St. Francis Cabrini Church. It’s actually right around the corner. The other four districts in Ward One are in there, so we’ll end up combining them and having all five districts.”
All of Cape May County polling stations currently have power, officials said.
Ocean County officials are rushing to deal with debilitating storm damage. A clerk at the Ocean County Board of Elections office said officials were too busy to answer questions Friday as of press time, and that their building was largely without power.
The Ocean County Clerk’s Office is issuing vote-by-mail ballots in Stafford Township to registered voters who are concerned about voting on Election Day, according to Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella. Previously, registered voters could pick up ballots in the Clerk’s Office in Toms River, according a release from Colabella.
Voters can get ballots at the County Southern Service Center at 179 S. Main St. in Stafford. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday.
The state mandated that Board of Election offices remain open this weekend and that they must accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 5, Kennedy said.
Atlantic County Board of Election officials reviewed polling places Friday afternoon and are still in the process of making changes.
“There’s a few polling places that have storm damage, and a couple without electricity that may or may not be on,” said Atlantic County Board of Elections Chairperson Paula Dunn. “The electric company is still saying until Sunday, so we’re in a holding pattern. And we’re in the process of contacting all our poll workers, and making sure they’re all available, and they’re back in their homes, and that kind of thing.”
Dunn said the VFW on Dorset Avenue in Ventnor won’t be usable on election day, so they are getting a mobile polling station from the state.
“The state’s providing it, so I don’t know exactly what it is,” she said. “They just told us it’s a truck and with lots of machines on it and people can vote in it.”
Damages have forced the relocation of a few other polling stations. Election officials should have more specific plans by today, according to Dunn.
“Most of the Mainland polling places are fine, there’s a few places where there’s been some damage and they might have to move polling places to another location in the same building,” she said. “There’s a couple on the island that will not be able to be used.”
Cumberland County Board of Election Administrator Liz Hernandez said election day should run smoothly in the county.
“Lucky for us we’re actually all good,” she said. “All of our polling places will open as normal.”
Michael Kennedy said that they have a plan to deal with transportation issues in Cape May County.
“We’ve been getting calls for the last two days from people who want to volunteer,” he said. “We’re compiling a list of those volunteers who are willing to help and to transport people who need a ride. It’s something we’ve never done before.”
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who oversees elections, urged storm-ravaged residents to visit their county clerk’s office between now and Election Day to cast their ballot in person. She said residents can text 877877 or log onto www.elections.nj.gov to find out where they can vote on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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