Extra day of voting possible in New York

(LA Times)

Voters in some New York counties may get an extra day to cast ballots if disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy prevent enough citizens from showing up at the polls, a state official said Sunday.

County election officials could ask the New York state Board of Elections to allow polls to reopen for another day if Tuesday's turnout is less than 25%, according to state board spokesman Thomas Connolly said.

"To my knowledge this has never happened in New York," Connolly said. "Will the turnout be low? It's hard to say -- probably, it all depends if people have other priorities."

The state board would consider the request and, if approved, a second day of voting would be scheduled within 20 days of Tuesday, he said.

Polls would be open for 11 hours on the second day, with only those who were eligible to vote on Tuesday allowed to cast ballots.

Nassau County Elections Commissioner William Biamonte expects a "significant drop off" in the turnout of Long Island voters.

"A lot of people that are displaced ... they're worried about getting their lives back, and whether they're going to go back to an area where they've lost power, or their home has been lost, rather than take care of what their immediate needs are, that's a big question," Biamonte said.

Also, forecasters are predicting a storm Tuesday, he said. "The weather is not going to be a friend on Tuesday. We're going to get very cold weather with a nor'easter coming our way again on Wednesday."

Getting polling sites ready has been a "slow, tortuous process" since Sandy hit the county, he said, but with the help of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushing the utility companies to get service restored they should have a "workable day."

Election officials relocated and consolidated 40 polling sites, while another 30 will be powered by portable generators, he said.

The Nassau County elections office in Mineola has been open each day from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. to allow voters to cast ballots, he said. "Our front counter has been besieged with people coming in and voting by absentee."

The New York City Board of Elections has decided to temporarily relocate or combine some polling locations across all five boroughs serving 143,000 voters because of damage from Sandy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

Bloomberg, who called the election board "dysfunctional," said he was concerned about polls being opened on time Tuesday and poll workers and voters knowing where to go.

"The difficulties they've had in planning for Tuesday further underscores that," he said.

The Election Protection Coalition launched a public service campaign to help New York and New Jersey voters find their relocated precincts. The nonpartisan group, which includes Common Cause and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, is staffing a hotline -- 866-OUR-VOTE -- for voters to call.