Since New Jersey was hit head on by Hurricane Sandy and more than 1.6 million electric customers remain without power, concerns are growing about how to handle the coming national election only four days away.
Many of the predetermined polling stations are also expected to be without power. Intending to be a solution, the Department of Defense has taken over Election Day in New Jersey by providing military trucks and paper ballots in place of some polling locations.
The Associated Press reported today:
New Jersey will deploy military trucks to serve as polling places on Election Day in storm-battered communities, the state secretary of the state announced Thursday during a visit to this flood-ravaged town. The state is also extending the deadline on mail-in ballots.
Department of Defense trucks will be parked at regular polling places that have lost power, as long as the sites are still accessible. Paper ballots will be used.
Republican Secretary of State and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said voters will find "a DOD truck with a well-situated National Guardsman and a big sign saying, 'Vote Here.'"What could possibly go wrong in this scenario?
Well, first, it's unclear how many of the residents that were forced to evacuate will return until the power is back on. Since each of those electric "customers" may be households with multiple voters, the population who would participate will likely be severely diluted.
Next, how will they know where to vote? Guadagno said "obviously in places like Seaside Heights and Sea Bright, there is no polling place, it's gone."
If there is limited communication because of the lack of power, people will certainly be confused abouy which DOD truck is their proper polling station. Having "well-situated National Guardsman and a big Vote Here sign" isn't exactly reassuring. So people have to drive around until they find it and hope it's their designated polling station?
While paper ballots certainly seem more reliable than the hackable electronic voter machines with no paper trail, counting them will take much longer and scattered polling stations would seem to offer more opportunity for complications, or fraud.
New Jersey is not considered a swing state for the presidential election, as recent polls show President Obama with a commanding double-digit lead . However, Gov. Chris Christie said that with this "old school" voting method "some races might be more suspenseful."
Finally, having a military presence on election day gives the appearance of third-world dictatorships or soft Martial Law. Surely the National Guard will be in uniform and armed, which is hardly inviting to citizens looking to participate in a peaceful democracy.
New Jersey extended the deadline for processing mail-in ballots until Friday, but they still have to be handed in by Election Day. With so many residents displaced, it would seem more appropriate to encourage mail-in ballots and extend the date to receive and process them.
New York City, which also experienced tremendous flooding and power outages, has also extended their deadline for absentee ballots. According to CNN :
New York, one of the states hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, has extended the deadline for absentee ballots and applications not delivered or requested in person, the State Board of Elections said.
New York City's election preparation efforts have also been hampered by flooding, power outages, and transportation shutdowns. The city's election board said their offices in Manhattan and Staten Island were closed and phone hotline was not operating correctly, but that additional staff had been assigned to handle absentee ballots and election preparations.
The state's original deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail or phone was this last Tuesday, when the storm was battering parts of the state, but the elections board said the deadline has been extended through Friday. While absentee ballots returned by mail can not be postmarked after Monday, the elections board extended by nearly a week the window for those ballots to be received.
The deadline for voters to submit an absentee ballot in person has not changed from Monday, the board said.With nine in ten polling stations without power, and nearly seven in ten flooded in Nassau County; and power expected to be off until middle-to-late November , New York City's challenges are easily as difficult as New Jersey's.
So, why the need for the military in New Jersey?
Read more from Eric Blair here