NYC elections board still assessing damage to polling sites

Liz Goodwin

The government agency in charge of elections in New York City has closed two of its five offices due to Monday night's storm, and its administrators do not yet know whether any polling stations are too damaged to use on Election Day.

Board of Elections Commissioner Maria Guastella said in a statement that the agency's Manhattan and Staten Island offices have been unusable since Monday, when the storm first knocked out power and flooded many areas of the city. The BOE has opened a temporary midtown Manhattan office at 33rd Street, but the Staten Island office is closed indefinitely.

The agency is assessing damage to its more than 1,000 voting stations, many of them at schools, where New Yorkers are supposed to vote on Tuesday. By law, voters may cast ballots only at the polling stations in the neighborhoods where they are registered.

Valerie Vazquez, a BOE spokeswoman, did not answer a question Yahoo News sent by email asking whether people  evacuated from destroyed homes in Staten Island and other parts of New York City will be able to vote in polling sites outside their neighborhoods.

Though the approximately 250,000 customers in lower Manhattan currently without power are expected to regain electricity by Friday or Saturday, many in Staten Island and Queens may still be in the dark on Election Day. Some polling stations, then, might lack the electricity needed for some voting machines.

"Our trucks are loaded and ready for delivery of all voting materials and equipment once we know that sites have not been damaged," Guastella wrote. "BOE will be working around the clock and through the weekend to make sure that all voting sites receive everything they need to be up and running."

The BOE's central phone bank, where voters can call in and ask (in several languages) where they should vote on Tuesday and other questions, was also knocked out by the storm and is still not functioning. This could make it even harder for New York City voters to figure out where they should cast their ballots if the city does end up moving some poll sites in hard-hit areas.