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Special voting for Sandy survivors

Storm survivors allowed to vote at any state polling place

NEW YORK | November 6, 2012

New York and New Jersey residents uprooted by Hurricane Sandy were told they could vote at any state polling place Tuesday, as a new storm threatened the area.

"Just because you're displaced doesn't mean you should be disenfranchised," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in announcing he signed an executive order letting residents cast provisional ballots at any polling place in the state.

The provisional, or affidavit, ballots would be counted after election officials confirmed the voter's eligibility.

But those ballots would, in many cases, let residents vote only for president and statewide offices, officials said. The ballots could not be used in local and congressional races because different districts have different local races. Some of those local and congressional races were expected to be far more competitive than the presidential race, where President Barack Obama is heavily favored in both states, The New York Times said.

New Jersey offered similar voting options, but went further than New York after Gov. Chris Christie let displaced residents vote by fax or email.

Anyone using this method would have to give up ballot secrecy, Christie's directive said. The faxed or emailed votes would also not be safeguarded by witnesses.

Ballot-integrity advocates warned the New Jersey process raised risks of fraud by hackers or mischief by partisan local officials, the Times said.

In West Virginia, officials relocated a number of polling precincts because of continued power outages from Sandy.

The New York City Board of Elections said it would have shuttle buses running every 15 minutes to take voters to and from polling places in three areas most devastated by the storm -- the Rockaway Peninsula, Coney Island and Staten Island.

But Democratic Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams said he doubted many voters living in evacuation shelters would go to the trouble of casting provisional votes.

"My guess is if you don't have your house, you have no place to live, you may not have food, this is probably not at the top of your list of things to do," he told the Times.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service forecast a nor'easter coastal storm with hurricane-like characteristics, including heavy rain and 65 mph wind gusts, would likely hit the same battered New York-New Jersey area Wednesday.

Utility officials and government authorities warned the next storm could halt utility companies' efforts to restore service to 1.4 million customers still without power a week after Sandy hit -- and would cause additional power losses.

The weather service issued a coastal flood watch Tuesday for New York Harbor and Long Island's Atlantic Ocean shores, along with two eastern Long Island bays, until 6 a.m. EST Thursday.

"Large breaking waves of 8 to 14 feet on top of any surge could cause significant additional beach erosion and overwash," the weather service said.

The giant storm is likely to pound an area reaching from parts of North Carolina north through southern New England, AccuWeather reported.

Inland areas including Washington, D.C., could see a heavy, wet snow Wednesday evening before it changes to rain.

New York and New Jersey-area temperatures were at or below freezing early Tuesday and were forecast to reach only into the mid-40s Fahrenheit later in the day.

The region's gasoline supplies from interstate pipelines increased, but motorists still experienced long lines at the pumps. Mass transit improved, but systems still struggled.

Tens of thousands of people remained homeless, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said authorities were considering all possible housing options.

These included apartments, hotel and motel rooms, "and, yes, we will look at trailers and prefab housing that were used in other areas of the country," she said. "Given the extent of the housing need that is very evident out of Sandy, no option is off the table and all of them will probably have some place in this puzzle."

Trailers were assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights

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