As the East Coast tries to get back on its feet after the damage from Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey has announced that residents can vote by email in the upcoming presidential election.
Flooding, damaged roads and power outages have forced many Jerseyites from their homes and the electronic option will allow first responders who are working away from home and those displaced by the storm to cast their ballot.
Hurricane Sandy, that barreled down on New Jersey and New York on October 29, has claimed 110 lives, displaced thousands and left millions without power for days.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his counterpart in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have been reviewing how to prepare their respective states for November 6 – while simultaneously trying to restore electricity and access to food and water.
Both states have asked power companies to prioritize electricity to polling stations this coming Tuesday.
New Jersey will allow any state resident that has been displaced by the storm to qualify as an overseas voter, meaning they can submit their ballot by fax or email.
Governor Chris Christie also mandated that county clerks open their offices over the weekend to allow early voting and has called for paper ballots to be sent to polling stations still without power.
“Time on your hands? Tired of cleaning stuff up? Go there in person, you’ll get a ballot, you vote and hand it in and you’re done,” Chris Christie said at a press conference, encouraging residents to not let the storm prevent them from exercising their right to vote.
“There’s no reason why anybody shouldn’t vote. We’re going to have a full, fair, transparent, open voting process,” he added.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to address the issue of polling station power availability but told reporters that the Board of Elections has jurisdiction over those centers.
“They have known for six days now that we were going to have some problems and hopefully they had backup plans anyway,” he said, casting some doubt on their preparedness though much of the city will likely have power by next Tuesday.
Many counties in upstate New York are still without power but officials have noted that paper ballots are primarily used, so the power outage should not impact a person’s ability to vote but access to polling stations might be a difficulty for many voters.
After the storm swept through the East Coast, local officials assessed the damage and some actually wondered if the destruction was severe enough to merit the postponement of the presidential election.
But the idea was dismissed given the limited geographic scope of the storm and the monumental impact of rescheduling the decision day for the U.S. Commander in Chief.
Changing the date of a national Election Day, which has never actually occurred before, can only occur by an act of Congress, according to legislation from 1845.