Sandy at the Polls: Test and Testament to Our Voting System

The 2012 election is a test and testament to our voting system.

Voting lines were already a block long in my Brooklyn neighborhood at 8 AM this morning. They had doubled by the time I checked back at 9:30. Inside, the site was equally crowded, a bit chaotic, and very energetic. People stood at small booths, filled in paperwork, and submitted their ballots at the scanners.  

P.S 29, where I was, had several scanners working, and there were ample numbers of poll workers on the scene. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, other voters are not so lucky.  At about 9:45am, Twitter user  was reporting only one working scanner at the Brooklyn Museum. Her Instagram photo shows the growing line at the scene.

With many voters displaced, and many polling sites physically out-of-order, the logistics of making sure everyone in New York, Long Island, and New Jersey who wants to vote has a way to do so are incredible. Add freezing temperatures, four-hour long gas lines, a massive cleanup and aid effort in areas destroyed by Hurricane Sandy: the commitment of everyone involved is nothing short of amazing. 

New Yorkers unable to go to their polling places were able to file absentee ballots until 5 PM Monday. In addition, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order yesterday allowing registered voters in Sandy-affected counties to vote via affidavit on Tuesday at any polling place in New York state. The Board of Elections has set up alternative voting sites in the hardest hit areas. Cuomo is also allowing MTA buses to shuttle voters from damaged polling places to alternate sites in Brooklyn's Coney Island, the Rockaways in Queens and Staten Island. To give a sense of scale of the rearrangement needed, New York City schools are one of the most common polling places. While most reopened on Monday, 102 did not.  Fifty-seven of those were heavily damaged, and 29 were without power. Election officials in New Jersey and Long Island are facing similar, widespread challenges, and doing their best to rise to them.

The ad hoc efforts will not be perfect, not by a long shot.  But they are to be admired. Our voting system has many weaknesses and outright flaws. Today shows that indifference to exercising our right to vote is not one of them.