UPDATED: Voting in Storm Aftermath: New Jersey

UPDATE, 11/6/2012: New Jersey’s Lietuetant Governor has extended deadline for email/fax ballots after county clerks were overwhelmed: “In a directive issued this afternoon. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has instructed county clerks to accept applications for mail-in ballots by fax or e-mail through 5 p.m. today. Clerks will process those applications throughout the week, and ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Friday…’It has become apparent that the county clerks are receiving applications at a rate that outpaces their capacity to process them without an extension of the current schedule,” Guadagno said. ‘If a displaced voter can vote by other means, they are urged to do so.'”

There’s also a lot of talk on NJ.com and already a bit elsewhere that this vote by email system is being used for “convenience” by some voters, not just those who are displaced. Generally, I’m hearing a lot of disapproval in the tone of those reports–and it’s somewhat warranted, I understand, because this system is rife for abuse in electronic hacking and didn’t have enough time to get security up.  But two points: 1. Clearly, people LIKE voting from their home, so let’s try to work on that in the future. 2. What exactly constitutes a “displaced” voter is unclear. Obviously, those people living down the shore who are foraging through rubble to find family heirlooms are displaced–they’re addressed floated away, they’re staying with friends or in shelter. But what about someone like me, a refugee from the cold front coming in while I still don’t have power? I happened to have a friend in my town I could stay with, so I voted as usual, but what if I stayed near work, in a different county? I’ll reflect more on lessons learned after voters have been cast, the important thing here is to get out the word that electronic voting has been EXTENDED.

If you’ve been without power like me for several days or – much, much worse – suffered the loss of your property or a loved one in the aftermath of Sandy, you may have lost track of time. But tomorrow is, in fact, November 6, and the end of this long, long election season. I’m a bit of a political junkie, but the storm has left me without the energy (and really, without TV or internet, the resources) to keep up with recent campaigning. That not withstanding, I’m excited to pop into my polling place tomorrow and cast my vote; it’s only my second presidential election, so I’ll be voting come hell or high water – and we’ve had a little of both here in New Jersey. Blog is being update as more information comes in.

If you don’t know where your polling place is, Google has an outstanding voter resource page to let you look it up; if you’re in an area impacted by the storm, it can also help you find out what the next step is if you’re polling place has been affected, including where you may be able to go if early voting is an option and getting to your polling place will be tough. If you don’t have regular internet access, you can text WHERE to 877877 – it will ask for your address, and send you info as to where you can vote and if your polling place has changed. I gave this a whirl–system is fast, accurate, and provides polling place address and hours.

Big props to New Jersey for making things easier for those of us hit by the storm. In addition to your local polling place, you also have the opportunity vote early in your County Clerk’s Office. Use that Google map to find out where you can go.

Unable to get anywhere because of the gas situation, or because you’ve relocated to someplace with heat/power? New Jersey has provisions in place to allow you to vote via email or fax (!!). The full details are available in policy jargon here; according to the NJ Elections website, you can receive a ballot this way up until 5 PM TOMORROW (Election Day), and must submit it by 8PM TOMORROW (Election Day, November 6). The state also encourages first responders who are still out fighting the good fight to use this means.  UPDATE: Big thanks to the awesome folks at TurboVote who have this page with instructions on voting my fax/email, including the application and where to send it by county. It seems that emailed ballots need to be scanned into something and sent away, which could be tough if you don’t have power, but a friend may be able to help, or your job may let you do so there. Also consider your local public library – New Jersey State Library is gathering information on open library locations, which could be a good starting point.

No power to vote electronically, and unable to get to where you need to be? A displaced voter (read: you’ve left home to stay in shelter/with friends and family, and can’t get back) can vote by provisional ballot at any polling place in the State. The directive from the state has certain safe guards in place to ensure your votes get counted, so grab some idea and take along with whoever is hosting you tomorrow when they go to the polls.

If your polling place cannot be used (flooding, power outage, trees down), the state has directed county officials to contact people via newspaper, “reverse 911” call system, and noticing at the site. If you’re concerned, start by checking out your county’s website as well as the League of Women Voters’ website, both of which are supposed to have this information. Their New Jersey chapter is providing some outstanding resources on polling place changes, as is this article from My Central Jersey.

I’m incredibly proud of how New Jersey has responded to the challenges of this storm, including ensuring residents who have been through so much can get to vote. I know for a lot of people, the election has taken a back burner, but please consider any and all of these options.

Folks, are there are scenarios which haven’t been covered here? And if anyone has info to update this for New York and Connecticut, please share, along with links to the info!

App to find your polling place. If you text WHERE to 877877, it will ask you for your address, and then send you your updated (if necessary) polling place. The system is being tweaked and updated, so please be patient and keep on checking to make sure you know if your polling place changes.Feel free to contact me with any questions related to voting.  

UPDATE for NEW YORK: Apparently the Governor signed an Executive Order basically saying that you can vote with a provisional ballot in any polling place you can get to, not just your usual one. Governor Cuomo’s order, like that in New Jersey, puts the burden on the polling place to get your ballot where it has to go, but I’d be prepared to show ID so they can figure out where it has to go.

Anyone tried these methods? Looking for feedback.

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