N.J. county clerk confronts reality of putting on election, post-Sandy
As the northeast picks up from the hurricane that roared ashore this week, election officials are left trying to figure out how to hold elections in places where residents have been evacuated and power is spotty, or non-existent. In Ocean County, N.J., they've adapted their vote-by-mail system to compensate.
When Hurricane Sandy hit land earlier this week, millions of people were left without electricity, miles of roads were left clogged with debris, and thousands of homes were either flooded or ripped from their foundations.
But while Sandy’s main impacts have been felt on roads, in homes and in communities, they also have the potential of being felt at the voting booth.
Will all the displaced people be able to make it to the polls? Will the absentee ballots be delivered? And in places that rely on electronic voting machines, will voting even be possible?
Scott Colabella, the county clerk for Ocean County, N.J., one of the places that was hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, said the largest problem is island residents, who were hardest hit by the storm.
"A lot of them, fortunately, have evacuated, so they are on the mainland, either in shelters or with relatives," said.
Colabella, one of the evacuees himself, said his office is trying to determine how to enable them to vote. One possibility is vote-by-mail ballots, which are available to any registered New Jersey voter, from the county clerk's office.
"We've been doing this for the last several days," he said.
Typically, the ballots are mailed out and back, but with problems with the mail, and people not at their homes, Colabella opened two locations in the county for people to complete and return their mail ballots.
"We've had people still wanting to participate in these elections. It's an encouraging site," he said.
Ocean County, home to nearly 600,000 people, is split among three Congressional Districts, New Jersey's second, third and fourth.
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