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No Plan Yet for Election Day, No Gas to Transport Voting Machines

By Jill Colvin | November 3, 2012 3:13pm | Updated on November 3, 2012 3:17pm

NEW YORK CITY — Officials still don't have a plan to get New Yorkers to the polls just three days before Election Day.

With large swaths of the city still in shambles, election officials were scrambling Saturday to figure out where to set up poll sites, how to keep them powered, and how to get the tens of thousands of New Yorkers, who remain without transportation and basic necessities like food and water, to the polls.

To complicate matters, the board is running out of gas, and can't begin transporting its voting machines to poll sites — a  process that typically begins a week before Election Day, City Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco told DNAinfo.com New York Saturday.

“The gasoline shortage is going to be an issue," he said. “We need to be able to deliver our equipment."

More than 100 poll sites were stationed in Zone A — but officials could not say on Saturday precisely how many — or which — have been rendered unusable because they'd been inundated with flood water or without power.

"We’re still working on the details," Polanco said, adding that officials were looking at "every option on the table” as they decided how to proceed.

“Elections are hard enough to put on as is... It's going to make thing a lot more difficult."

The hurricane also knocked out power to the board’s lower Manhattan and Staten Island offices, and has shot its central phone bank, disrupting preparations that had been underway.

Officials are considering several options when it comes to where people should cast their votes, including combining poll sites and pitching tents outside of ravaged sites and powering them using generators.

But Polanco said the board is having Issues with securing enough electrical equipment to run all of their voting machines, which need steady power to run.

And then there's the matter of getting the tens of thousands of residents in disaster zones — many of whom remain without power and transportation — their cars destroyed — to the poll sites, when many are more concerned with how they'll find basic necessities, including food and water, than whether Romney or Obama will win the presidential race.

“Some people have lost lives, some people have lost family members and having them engage in the democratic process right now [is not a top priority," Polanco said.

That could prove a deciding factor in many neck-and-neck local races, including City Councilman Eric Ulrich's bid to unseat Queens State Sen. Joe Addabbo, and the race between Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm and Mark Murphy.

To try to make things easier, the Governor's office was working to set up alternate transportation, Polanco said. And Once poll sites are finalized, officials have been discussing putting up fliers at evacuation shelter and throughout affected neighborhoods to let voters without power or cell phone reception know where to vote, said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who chairs the council's Governmental Operations committee.

"I assume that it’s going to be a big challenge," Brewer said of the transportation situation.

“I’m nervous."