Take The Voting Machines to the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson Hurricane Sandy roared through here on a mission, and with a ferocity never before witnessed on the East Coast, leaving devastation and destruction in his path. New York and New Jersey sustained major damages - physically, mentally and spiritually and the aftermath is still being assessed. President Obama and Governor Chris Christie surveyed the utter destruction of the Jersey Shore. Mayor Bloomberg kept New Yorkers abreast of rescue efforts, transportation delays, and plans for reconstruction over the next days weeks and months. First responders, FEMA, and other organizations tried to make sure those hardest hit had food clothing and shelter. And everybody prayed. And as we continue to clean up after Sandy, grieve over those who have lost their lives, their homes, their loved ones. My condolences to all who were victims of this horrible force of nature. But the 800 pound gorilla in the room is how will the voting be handled come Tuesday, November 6th, 2012? With so many power outtages, so many people displaced, so many people in a state of shock and despair, how will we as a nation, get through this election? This question was posed to me by my best friend, Annie Gee in Philly, who is highly concerned about making sure the victims aren't further victimized by not being able to vote on election day. With the Rep-ugh-blicans already trying to disenfranchise so many of us, will this deter others from voting and give them an ersatz victory? Power outtages have rendered some of the original sites useless. Many of the buildings no longer exist - especially in the hardest hit areas of New Jersey, Staten Island, Far Rockaway , and affected states along the coastline, where Sandy tossed them around, pulling them off their foundations as though they were mere doll houses. John Conklin, New York Board of Elections spokesman, said changes in polling sites are possible.“We don’t know what the changes will be,” Conklin said. “The local boards in the storm areas are assessing their poll sites right now, so they’re looking at whether the poll site has power, whether it could have power by Election Day, whether it’s accessible to the general public — can voters get to it? Can the board get to it and get machines there? And is the building structurally sound?” In listening to the news reports, there seems to be no plan in place to make sure that these sites are replaced. The New York State Board of Elections also announced Thursday that it would extend application and submission deadlines for absentee ballots, and local boards in storm-impacted areas have spent much of the week surveying polling places and considering alternatives for Election Day. They've extended the deadline for voters to apply in person for abseentee ballots to Monday, November 5, and had voted to accept mailed or faxed applications for absentee ballots through Nov. 2, easing the original Oct. 30 deadline. (what?) Rockland County residents, however were unable to get to the post office for the last three days according to Louis Babcock, Republican elections commissioner for Rockland County.The board also extended the deadline to submit the ballots in person by six days, from Nov. 13 to Nov. 19. Ballots returned by mail still must be postmarked Nov. 5 but have until Nov. 19 to reach the local board. For those who can’t vote in person, they may designate another person to submit absentee ballots on their behalf to local boards before polls close Nov. 6. Polls will be open Election Day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. But whether the various boards of elections in the most highly affected states have made preparations and allowances for people already suffering from devastating losses is still unclear. And the real question is, considering the trauma they've experienced, will people even be interested in voting? They need some additional hand holding and encouragement during this period of despair. They've got enough to contend with without having to go running around trying to jump through these latest hoops in order to vote. I think the boards of elections in each state and municipality hit by Sandy can do a lot better. So here are some suggestions that may be helpful in making sure no one's vote goes uncounted: 1) Provide mobile trucks with the voting machines on them at the emergency shelters where people still can't get back to their homes. They can be positioned at the different rescue centers and shelters on election day to provide them with an opportunity to vote. 2) Deliver the absentee ballots for early voting prior to the election day to the various emergency shelter sites, rather than requiring them to travel to postal facilities. And have postal trucks positioned at the sites so they can be mailed out directly from them. 3)Volunteers can organize vans and other modes of mass transportation to and from polling places for victims of Hurricane Sandy. 4) Where there are power outtages, generators can be installed t run the electronic voting machines; and/or paper ballots can be substituted for electronic voting; 5) Volunteers and community based organizations can coordinate with local municipalities and to make sure the election process goes smoothly. Provide those people who have lost their homes with coffee, tea, and other comfort items while they're voting. 6) FEMA and the Red Cross can provide options for voting places and opportunities for victims. 7) Additionally, since there are many who do not have radio or TV contact with the outside world, door knocking, flyers, and other modes of communication and outreach should be developed and put into effect immediately so that they are informed of their options. 8) Since the New York Marathon has been cancelled the equipment and hospitality set up they would have been used for them can be deployed to the various shelters - not just for election day - but for food and comfort stations while people are transitioning back to their homes, or into new homes. 9) This not exhaustive. There's room for more creative ideas. We definitely can't leave things to chance, or to the just bureaucrats. These plans should be put into action immediately, if not sooner. Regardless of your race, ethnicity, gender, or political pursuasion, it's much too important to leave something as important as your vote to the bureaucrats. I'm posting this on my blog: www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com. Regardless of whether you are in any of the effected states or communities, or not, please pass this on, take action and make it happen. We are really all in this together, and can't allow geography or neighborhood divide us. Churches, community action groups, elected officials, need to be about it. Remember "Teamwork makes the dream work!" It will be far worse to have endured this horrible experience and then wake up on November 7th and find out that the aid and assistance you had been promised, and so desperately need, are now in the hands of heartless individuals who care more for the dollar bottom line than your welfare and recovery. Paraphrasing a time honored institution, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF): A VOTE IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE. My prayers and condolences to those who were victimized by this vicious hurricane. Stay Blessed & ECLECTICALLY BLACK Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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