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Expecting the Unexpected: Election Planning for Emergencies

October 29, 2013   ·  View/Download Document

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Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and New York on October 29, 2012, a week before Election Day. Officials in New Jersey and New York went ahead with federal and state elections just a week after the storm made landfall, and both states managed to overcome significant obstacles through emergency accommodations that enabled thousands of eligible voters in distressed areas to cast ballots.

Despite both states' efforts, however, numerous problems persisted. New York's expanded use of provisional ballots, intended to enable residents in affected areas to vote, resulted in provisional ballot shortages at numerous precincts. In New Jersey, election officials struggled with e-mail servers and fax machines that crashed as they were overloaded with ballot requests. In both states, voters found it difficult to access reliable information on new voting directives and relocated polling places.

The successes and setbacks in New York and New Jersey underscore the need for state and local jurisdictions to adopt emergency procedures to ensure the orderly administration of elections in the event of an emergency. This report discusses the 2012 General Election in New Jersey and New York in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and offers recommendations to jurisdictions seeking to adopt contingency plans.