New York To Allow Voters To Cast Ballots By Affidavit

Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to issue an executive order to allow voters to cast ballots at any polling site, even outside their neighborhoods. Voters will sign affidavits that they're legally registered to vote. Some polling places were rendered unusable by Hurricane Sandy. Melissa Block talks to Quil Lawrence for more.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now many who will cast presidential ballots in New York have been facing a complicated post-storm challenge - where they should vote. Superstorm Sandy has displaced many residents from their homes and some polling places are out of commission because of storm damage. Late today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order, telling voters they can cast ballots wherever they want.

I asked NPR's Quil Lawrence in New York about just what Governor Cuomo said today.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: He said that he would sign an executive order that would allow New Yorkers to vote wherever they show up, any polling station anywhere. So there had been a lot of discussion about polling stations being merged or moved from damaged places, and now anyone who shows up at a polling station can cast a ballot by affidavit. And that will allow them to vote in the presidential and the Senate races. They won't be able to vote from anywhere for local state legislative candidates.

BLOCK: And does that help ease the confusion do you think?

LAWRENCE: It's hard to say. He's just announced it this evening. There had been a lot of information out there from the Board of Elections about where people should be going, how they could catch a shuttle bus. But that said, the commissioners had also been delivering a similar message, which is if you get to the polling station and you don't find your name there, sign an affidavit, cast your ballot that way. One of the commissioners I spoke with today said, don't despair, we want your vote to be counted.

BLOCK: Quil, when you were out and about talking to would-be voters today, what were you hearing from people, especially in these neighborhoods where they're not able to get much information, they may not have power? What are you hearing from people?

LAWRENCE: Sure. Some people told me, well, I haven't gotten my mail in five days. I just moved back into my apartment. It was flooded. And usually they send me a note telling me where to vote, so I don't know where I'm going to vote. There were some people who were quite determined. And I have to say, some of the folks who said, well, I don't know where to vote now also said that they hadn't registered yet. So they clearly weren't - really didn't have their act together even before the storm.

Other people I spoke to said, you know, life is going on. I always vote around the corner at Public School 188 and that's where I'm going to vote this time. They seemed determined that they would still have their vote be counted. But, you know, a lot of people have other things on their mind if they're without power, they're looking for a place for their family to stay, they might not get around to politics this year.

BLOCK: And again, Quil, the order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that New Yorkers can vote in any polling place. They can get a provisional ballot in any polling place. But, again, only for the presidential and the Senate races. Is that right?

LAWRENCE: Correct, yes. They'll have to be in the right place if they want to vote for local races.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Quil Lawrence in New York. Quil, thanks very much.

LAWRENCE: Thanks, Melissa.

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