Superstorm Sandy could still bring chaos to election day

Widespread power outages along the East Coast had officials in at least four states scrambling Wednesday to devise contingency plans for Election Day voting.

In New York, where at least 26 people statewide died and nearly 2 million remain without power as of Wednesday, Board of Elections officials continue to work with county authorities and Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding contingency plans. No additional information was available, a spokeswoman told

“Due to hurricane Sandy, poll site information for the November 6, 2012 election may change,” a state Board of Elections website reads.

Federal law sets the election for the day after the first Monday in November, under authority granted to Congress by the U.S. Constitution. Only Congress can change Election Day, according to an 1845 law. Although it has never happened, some experts said every state would have to be included if the calendar were changed.

More likely is the prospect that hard-hit states will manage with a hodge-podge of contingencies. Some states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, use paper ballots that are then counted by electronic scanning equipment, so counting the ballots could be done where the power is on. Experts also said voting equipment could be operate on battery power or, under the worst case scenario, all voting could be done on paper ballots which could then be counted by hand.

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    Roughly 100 of Connecticut's 770 voting locations are without power, according to Secretary of State Denise Merrill, but she said Tuesday’s election would go on as planned.

    “It will go forward no matter what,” Merrill said by phone. “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”


    As a result of Sandy’s destruction, voting registration has been extended to 8 p.m. Thursday, she said.

    Restoring power to affected polling sites in the states is a top priority, added Merrill's spokesman Av Harris.

    "We should be reluctant to move polling places because those are usually neighborhood fixtures. You don’t want to confuse voters. It’s sort of a last resort," Harris told

    In New Jersey, which suffered some of the worst storm devastation, officials were still working out an alternative plan as of Wednesday afternoon.

    “It’s too early for me to say anything,” a representative from the state board of elections told, adding that a plan should be in place by Thursday morning.

    The plan could include the use of paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines and a change in polling sites for communities that typically rely on area schools. A postponement appears highly unlikely, though voting hours could be extended at various polling locations.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency's administrator, Craig Fugate, told the Associated Press on Monday he anticipated the storm's impact could linger into next week and affect the election.  FEMA would look at what assistance it could provide to states prior to next Tuesday, he said.

    "This will be led by the states," Fugate said.

    Hours after the powerful storm pummeled New Jersey’s shore towns — causing billions in damage — Gov. Chris Christie told reporters Tuesday that Election Day logistics were not among his concerns.

    “I don’t give a damn about Election Day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter a lick to me. I’ve got much bigger fish to fry.”

    “Right now I’m much more concerned about preventing any other loss of life, getting people to safe places,” Christie said.

    President Obama earlier this week scrapped two days of campaigning and hunkered down at the White House to oversee the government’s response to a storm that has affected voters in at least 13 states.

    "The election will take care of itself next week," Obama told reporters on Monday.'s Cristina Corbin and Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.