Blackouts at voting sites cloud Election Day picture
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With many polling stations still flooded or without electricity, elections officials in the Hudson Valley and across the state are taking stock of the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday's presidential election.
Tom Connolly, a spokesman for the state Elections Board, said officials are trying to determine what local election boards need for support and resources to ensure that New Yorkers are able to cast ballots on Tuesday, when voters will go to the polls to vote on a president, along with a plethora of congressional, state and local races.
"Election Day will happen on Tuesday," Connolly said. "Right now we're just trying to figure out the counties' need in terms of providing generators and possibly moving polling places. Whatever they need to do, we're going to help them do it."
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He said the state has given a list of polling stations in counties hit hard by the storm to utility companies and has asked them to make restoring power to those places -- town halls, schools, community centers and churches -- a priority.
"It's a priority, it's not THE priority," Connolly said. "Right now life safety is the main priority, making sure that everyone is OK and that hospitals and nursing homes have the power that they need."
Elections officials were expected to hold a conference call Wednesday morning with commissioners from several counties.
Louis Babcock, one of Rockland County's election commissioners, said Wednesday that county officials were trying to assess what impact the storm had on the county's 85 polling sites. Rockland County was hit hard by the storm and county emergency management officials have estimated that roughly three-quarters of the population were without electricity.
"We have power at our main election offices now, which are open and working," he said. "We may have to move some polling sites or install generators at some locations to ensure that there is power for those places for the election."
Babcock said the county is also trying to find trucks to move the voting machines to polling stations. The company that the county contracts with houses its trucks at a warehouse near the Hudson River, and can't get them out because of flooding.
"We were scheduled to start our deliveries today and that's not going to happen," he said.
He said the hurricane will likely have some impact on turnout, but expects die-hard voters won't be deterred.
"People who want to vote are going to vote, no matter how bad things are," Babcock said. "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."
He warned voters to expect possible delays and changes to polling stations on Election Day.
Doug Colety, one of Westchester County's election commissioners, said emergency management officials are also trying to get a handle on flooding damage to polling stations and power outages to determine what needs to be done.
"It's a moving target," he said. "We're still trying to determine which sites will be up and running by the election."