Easing election day procedures for New Yorkers struggling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that registered voters can cast their ballot at any poll site in the state for the presidential elections today.
The states of New York and New Jersey, worst hit by last week's massive storm, are taking unprecedented measures to ensure residents are able to cast their votes despite dealing with widespread power outages and displacement.
Cuomo signed an executive order that would enable voters who are registered in a federally-declared disaster county to vote on an affidavit ballot at any poll site in New York State, regardless of where they are registered.
The order mandates every board of elections in New York State to send such affidavit ballot to the board of elections where the voter is actually registered, so that the vote is counted in the correct place.
"Hurricane Sandy has already disrupted the lives of countless New Yorkers, but we will not let it disrupt anyone seeking to exercise the most fundamental of democratic rights: the right to vote," Cuomo said.
"Even in times of great tragedy and suffering, New Yorkers understand that we must continue to do all that we can to maintain the integrity of our system. That is why the State is making every effort to ensure that voters who are displaced from their homes because of the storm will still be able to make their voices heard on Election Day."
Cuomo, however, said New Yorkers should attempt to vote at their regular polling place but if they cannot reach their polling site or their site is shutdown, only then should they vote at an alternative site.
The federally-declared disaster counties include Bronx, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester.
The Governor's order also extends to first responders and emergency workers involved in recovery efforts who reside in one of the federally-declared disaster counties.
Several polling sites in the region have been rendered inoperable due to power outages, flooding and disrupted public transit system in Sandy's aftermath.
The County Boards of Elections (CBEs) have been directed to ensure poll workers provide affidavit ballots and guidance to voters in accordance with the order.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said about 143,000 voters in all five boroughs in New York would have to vote at polling sites different from their usual and registered sites.
The city has identified alternative sites for those polling stations that have been rendered non-operational due to the storm.
A total of over 60 alternate sites have been identified, including three in Manhattan, three in the Bronx, two on Staten Island, 28 in Queens and 25 in Brooklyn.
New Jersey would allow residents to vote by e-mail or fax and voters will also be permitted to cast a provisional ballot in person at any polling place in the state, regardless of where in the state they are registered to vote.
In order to vote electronically, displaced voters would be able to submit a mail-in ballot application either by e-mail or fax to their county clerk.
Once an application is approved, the clerk would electronically send a ballot to the voter by either fax or e-mail and voters must return their electronic ballot by fax or email by the night of November 6.
Separate directives have been issued to enable displaced voters and first responders to vote by provisional ballot at a polling place in a county other than the voter's county of registration.
The deadline for county clerks to receive mail-in ballots has been extended to November 19.
In addition, military trucks would be deployed across New Jersey to serve as polling stations.