In Sandy's Wake, Take Election Day By Storm

Be sure to cast your vote as an unprecedented NJ election unfolds following historic storm.

There is an election on Tuesday.

Who cares?

Everyone should care.

It's the big presidential balloting, comes around only once every four years. There's one U.S. Senate and all House seats up. Two statewide ballot questions. Three state Assembly seats, including one in District 26 that covers Parsippany and other parts of Morris County. County freeholders. mayors and council members. And, for the first time in a November, school board members—the majority of districts throughout the state pushed their school elections to November to eliminate the public vote on the budget.

All of this is central to our democracy.

And everyone should get out and vote.

But it's the last thing on the minds of many people, and who can blame them.

They're still thinking of Sandy.

To recap the last week:

Lost the summer home to the flood waters.

The winds blew a tree onto the van and into a corner of the house.

The power has been out since last Monday (107,000 in Morris still out as of early Sunday morning, according to JCP&L if that number is accurate and that is questionable), which means trying to keep kids—also home since last Monday—occupied, food iced properly, candles burning safely and enough wood in the fireplace so at least one room stays warm, all without having been able to take a hot shower.

The stores were sold out of D batteries for the flashlights and the gas station was closed so the generator died.

And now, 45-minute waits every other day for gas.

Who could blame anyone for not thinking about voting, for not voting?

It's time to vote, but the polling place is under water or has no power, so then what?

Officials at all levels of government in New Jersey, from the governor on down, have been doing a lot to make sure everyone has the chance to vote.

Gov. Chris Christie ordered the county clerks' offices to open Saturday, Sunday and Monday to allow people to come in and vote.

To make it even easier, Christie announced on Saturday that any displaced voter would be able to cast a ballot by email or fax by 8 p.m. Tuesday after first contacting his county clerk to have the ballot emailed or faxed to him.

All the relaxed rules are available on the Secretary of State's website.

The one area in which the state has been lacking has been in providing a central repository for changed polling places. The state has no central repository of different locations.

Last week, Secretary of State Kim Guadagno announced there would be Army trucks with National Guardsmen at polling locations to collect ballots if there was no power, or no building anymore.

While guaranteeing everyone could vote is absolutely necessary, a military presence might scare some away. So it seems many clerks have chosen to move polling locations. The secretary of state's website suggests people visit two other sites to find a polling place.

There are other ways to find out.  Consult your Patch—where you'll find changes that impact your community.

In Morris, you can also check the county clerk's elections center page. Last but not least, the New Jersey League of Women Voters has been collecting whatever information it can find on moved polling locations. What happens if thousands don't vote? Could it affect the results, delivering losses rather than victories, for President Obama and U.S. Sen. Menendez, who both were projected to win by large margins in the state? Or could it mean a loss for incumbent Republican congressmen in districts with more power outages and other damage in wealthier, red-leaning towns?

No one is speculating because there is no precedent for this, a storm doing so much damage a week before a presidential election.

It would be a shame for New Jersey to become the example of extreme outcomes changed by the storm.

So despite everything the state has been through, New Jerseyans should prove how tough we are and get out to the polls, wherever they may be, and vote.

I. M. Legion November 05, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Unfortunately, some of us have left the state to be with family with heat, lights, etc. The way to vote by email or fax is cumbersome and relies on a clerk validating you ahead of time. The most important election of my life--and I will probably miss it unless power comes back on on Monday.
MJM November 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Tami, I totally understand. I don't have power yet either. Luckily, tons of blankets in my house, but I agree, it is very cold.
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