City board ‘confident’ polls will be ready on Election Day

Photo: David Poe/Flickr

Hurricane Sandy shut off New York’s power and damaged the city’s transit system, but it couldn’t knock out the democratic process.

A spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections said Tuesday morning that voting would still take place on schedule next week.

“We’re confident we’ll be ready for Election Day,” said Valerie Vazquez, the board’s director of communications.

The storm did hamper the city’s preparations, however.

Trucks were scheduled to begin delivering voting equipment to poll sites on Monday and Tuesday, but Sandy scuttled those plans and pushed them back, Vazquez said.

Since many schools double as polling places, officials at the board are now trying to coordinate with the Department of Education to keep the sites open late, or even over the weekend, to allow for deliveries of equipment like ballot scanners, ballot markers, and privacy booths, Vazquez said.

She said BOE staffers would also be calling the operators of other poll sites like churches and senior centers to see how they weathered Sandy, and to coordinate preparations.

During the storm, Vazquez said that the BOE’s voting equipment remained safe in storage in borough offices around the city, with the exception of Staten Island.

There, the BOE’s offices were located in flood-prone Zone A — which Mayor Michael Bloomberg had ordered evacuated in advance of the storm – so officials transferred voting equipment to the Staten Island Armory before Sandy hit.

“Staten Island was the only borough office that we know of that had been affected in any way,” Vazquez said.

Update, Tuesday 2:00: In an emailed statement, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer–who runs a committee that conducts oversight of the BOE — praised the board for “taking proactive steps to prevent further damage.”

However, she said that the board’s offices in Staten Island and Manhattan are still without power, and that she is concerned about processing absentee ballots, and the fact that some poll sites are currently being used as shelters.

“We will have an election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 but we will need to work diligently with the board and the city’s emergency response teams to make sure that power is restored, and that everything is in place in time for the election,” Brewer said. “This will not be an easy process, but I am confident that the Board is doing everything in their power to deal with these serious issues.”

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