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Voters in NY, NJ not deterred by storm's effects

By Wayne Parry

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 1:21 p.m. MST

"I'm amazed at how resilient people are. I think there's tremendous interest in the election here and nationwide," Christie said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders, an opportunity New Jersey was extending to voters as well. Provisional ballots are counted after officials confirm a voter's eligibility.

At a news conference Tuesday, Cuomo urged New Yorkers to cast their ballots.

"It's important that we vote, it's important that the system works," Cuomo, a Democrat, said. "This is a critical election ... and who's in charge matters."

Authorities were also sensitive to concerns about potential disenfranchisement and were taking steps to ensure voters were kept informed of continued problems or changes to their voting locations.

Ernie Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Elections, said fewer than 100 polling places around the state were without power, compared with 800 just days ago, and said the state has abandoned earlier plans to use military trucks as makeshift polling places. Most voters will be able to cast ballots at their regular polling sites, he said.

Landante also said the state had taken extra steps to make sure people displaced by Sandy would be able to vote, like allowing "authorized messengers" to pick up as many mail-in ballots as they request for people in shelters or away from their homes.

"We are doing everything we can in this extraordinary situation not to disenfranchise voters displaced by Sandy. Their voices and their votes will be heard no differently than anyone else's," he said.

But authorities abruptly switched gears on an additional directive that Christie's office announced on allowing displaced New Jersey residents to vote via email and fax.

The directive allowed voters to request and file a ballot electronically. But under pressure from voting rights advocates, officials said those voters would have to submit a paper ballot along with the electronic filing — a rule the state's military personnel and residents living overseas are required to follow as well. Initially, the state was going to waive the paper ballot requirement.

Some voting rights advocates weren't satisfied with last-minute change, saying it made the situation that much more confusing for voters.

"It seems like this now opens the door for a lot of potential litigation," Rutgers-Newark Law School Penny Venetis said.

Fouhy reported from Washington and Parry reported from Point Pleasant, N.J. Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill in New Jersey and A.J. Connelly, Seth Wenig, Frank Eltman, and Christina Rexrode in New York contributed to this report.

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