Despite Sandy's Wrath, Officials Vow Election Is Still 'Good to Go'
CNBC Washington Reporter
The election of 2012 will be held on Tuesday, come hell or high water.
It's just that local election officials didn't think that expression would come so literally true in the days leading up to Election Day.
In the crucial swing state of Ohio, which has early voting, Secretary of State John Husted told CNBC that only one polling place had been affected by a power outage. And that was only for a few hours.
"No voter has been inconvenienced so far," he said Thursday. "We don't believe anyone will be inconvenienced on Tuesday. We will be ready to go on Election Day."
In hard hit New Jersey and New York, election officials told CNBC they are scrambling now to evaluate the physical condition of polling places and find alternate locations for voters to go Tuesday in the hardest hit areas. But they say the election itself is on no matter what.
"Our plan is to be good to go on Tuesday," said Wayne Rogers, the Republican Board of Election commissioner in Suffolk County, N.Y., on hard-hit Long Island. "That's the plan."
Rogers said phone service was still out in much of the county, forcing the Board of Elections to send people out on foot to survey each of the county's polling places to make sure they are intact and have power. He said he was particularly concerned about those polling places south of Montauk Highway, which are closest to the ocean.
"We've never had this kind of destruction," he said. "We don't know who's where." Still, he said voters — even those who've lost their homes or are living in shelters — will be able to cast their ballots as planned on Tuesday. The county plans to open new polling places, or reroute voters to alternate locations from each polling place that is unusable.
And he said, the Long Island Power Authority has assured the Board of Elections that it will prioritize restoring power to polling places before Election Day.
As for the State of New York as a whole, John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said his agency was focused on delivering voting machines and making sure polling places are safe. "We're going to have an election on Tuesday," he said. "With, hopefully, just minor inconveniences."
It is much the same picture in Cape May County, N.J., which includes the barrier islands on the southern end of the Jersey Shore. "We're still evaluating it," said Michael Kennedy, the county registrar. "We're not allowed back on the islands until the end of the day, but we're told by emergency management that most of the polling places will be accessible." There, too, officials plan to consolidate polling places and relocate voters from some of the damaged facilities near the ocean.
(Read More: Scenes From Hurricane Sandy)
Historically, the United States has not once postponed a presidential election – even during World War II and the Civil War. Presidential Election Day is set by Congress, and it would likely take a new law passed in Washington to move it — and Congress would likely have to change it for the whole country at the same time, not just certain affected states.
That means this election is coming, whether the local officials are completely prepared or not. So how's that going to affect turnout in the hardest hit areas next week? Rogers in Suffolk County said he doesn't know: "We probably won't find that out until after Election Day."