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An aerial shot from the governor's tour of areas affected by Sandy. Photo: Governor's office via <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/">Flickr</a>
An aerial shot from the governor's tour of areas affected by Sandy. Photo: Governor's office via Flickr

Cuomo eases rules for displaced voters

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Governor Cuomo says he'll suspend some normal voting rules Election Day to allow New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote in a different polling place.

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Governor Cuomo has signed an executive order allowing New Yorkers displaced by superstorm Sandy to vote by affidavit ballot at any other polling place in the state that they can get to on Election Day. “We want everyone to vote,” Cuomo said. “Just because you’re displaced doesn’t mean you should be disenfranchised.”

The move was praised by government reform groups, who had sought the executive order. Sue Lerner, with Common Cause, says her group has been getting calls and emails from New Yorkers forced out of their homes by storm damage, who were anxious to still vote.

“This is the basic American right,” Lerner said.

Displaced voters who choose the option will be able to vote for a Presidential candidate, and in the race for US Senate, where Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand faces a challenge from Republican Wendy Long.  But the governor admits there is a “downside”; they will not be able to vote in state races for Assembly and Senate, if they go to a polling place that is outside their local districts.  That’s because there will be different Assembly and Senate candidates on the ballot at other polling places.

It’s unknown what effect the changes could have on state legislative races.

Lerner, with Common Cause, agrees that it’s the best possible compromise under the circumstances. She says that after all, the election can’t be postponed: “The rest of the country is not going to postpone its Presidential election,” Lerner said. “So our election has to go forward.”

Cuomo admits that some displaced voters may be hard pressed to even find alternative polling places, but he says compared to what the region has been through with the storm and its aftermath , coordinating affidavit voting  will be “like a walk in the park”.

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