As Virginia braces for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, state elections officials are taking steps to make sure that the storm does not disrupt voting in the upcoming general election.
The state board of elections has advised localities to keep general registrars’ offices open for in-person absentee voting unless conditions make it unsafe for employees and voters. The storm is expected to have its greatest impact on Monday and Tuesday, with high winds and heavy rain in the eastern third of the state and the potential for snow in Western Virginia.
Local authorities or first responders will have the final decision on closing general registrars’ offices after consultation with the registrar’s office and electoral board, the state board said in a news release. The board also is asking local registrars to accommodate voters who ask to vote absentee because of the potential impact of the storm.
Elections officials also have received assurances that registrars’ offices and polling places will be given high priority for power restoration after the storm, if needed. Many localities have made arrangments for alternative power sources, the board said.
Electronic voting machines are equipped with backup batteries, and election officials have the option of using paper ballots as a last resort. State law also permits local electoral boards to request an emergency polling place relocation if a normal precint location cannot be used on Election Day.
“The state board of elections is closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy and working to minimize any potential impact the storm has on absentee voting and preparations for the November general election,” said board secretary Donald Palmer. “The agency has been coordinating with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management in conjunction with the Emergency Operations Center, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, and major utility providers. SBE is in close communication with Virginia’s 134 general registrars and electoral boards to monitor developments at the local level and provide guidance and support to the localities as necessary.”
– Michael Sluss