Much will be at stake when New Yorkers go to the polls tomorrow, but perhaps nothing more so than the basic right to vote.
As of yesterday, less than 72 hours before Election Day, tens of thousands of voters were confusingly assigned new poll sites after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to or damaged the usual spots where they cast their ballots.
Some of those 60 or so unusable sites have also been consolidated into about 26, meaning crowds of voters will likely show up at overtaxed schools or private sites to pick their candidates, which could lead to long waits at the polls.
Some voters will also be making their picks outside in tents, while others may need to be bused from devastated neighborhoods and shelters to make their voices heard.
And for many people who turn out to vote in this critical election — if they are not dealing with flooded or destroyed homes, displacement or other, more important problems caused by the aftermath of the storm — it will be the first time they will use the new electronic voting machines.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, the city Board of Elections, which has been known to bungle the administration of the democratic process on more than one occasion during relatively normal circumstances, has been without power at its lower Manhattan headquarters since last week after it was flooded (a satellite office in Staten Island has also been closed for the same reason).
Along with the electricity went the Boards’s voter hotline, though people can call 311 to find out their poll sites.
The Board says its staff has been working round-the-clock to relocate polls, process absentee ballots and get the word out about the election. And, from what could be gleaned from interviews with officials and good government groups over the past few days, there was a semblance of coordination among the board, mayor’s office, governor’s office and federal and state officials to address the problem with voting sites.
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