Hurricane Sandy and Voting in New York

See also: Eric. A Fischer and Kevin J. Coleman.  "Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 Election: Fact Sheet."  Congressional Research Service, Nov. 8, 2012.

PRESS RELEASE from Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order to Facilitate Voting for New Yorkers Who Were Affected by Hurricane Sandy

Albany, NY (November 5, 2012)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an executive order that will greatly facilitate voting for New Yorkers who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Executive Order provides for any voter who is registered in a federally-declared disaster county to vote on an affidavit ballot at any poll site in New York State, regardless of where they are registered. In addition, the Executive Order also mandates every board of elections in New York State to send such affidavit ballot to the board of elections where the voter is actually registered, so that the vote is counted in the correct place. Such a vote will count for the office of President and United States Senator and for any other candidate and ballot initiative that appears on the official ballot where the voter is registered.
First responders and emergency workers involved in the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts are also included in the Executive Order if they reside in one of the federally-declared disaster counties.
New Yorkers should attempt to vote at their regular polling place. If they cannot reach their polling site or their site is shutdown, only then should they vote at an alternative site. The only votes that will count are the votes that voters would have legally been allowed to cast at their regular polling site.
The federally-declared disaster counties include: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester.
“Hurricane Sandy has already disrupted the lives of countless New Yorkers, but we will not let it disrupt anyone seeking to exercise the most fundamental of democratic rights: the right to vote,” said Governor Cuomo. “Even in times of great tragedy and suffering, New Yorkers understand that we must continue to do all that we can to maintain the integrity of our system. That is why the State is making every effort to ensure that voters who are displaced from their homes because of the storm will still be able to make their voices heard on Election Day.”
The County Boards of Elections (CBEs) were directed to use all available means to:
  1. Provide notice to election inspectors and post the provisions of the Executive Order conspicuously on the boards’ websites and at poll sites in New York State giving instruction on how to implement such Order;
  2. Instruct poll workers to provide affidavit ballots and guidance to voters in accordance with the Order
  3. Provide notice and guidance to voters in accordance with this Executive Order that indicates that
    • voters who reside in the counties of Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, or Westchester, or in New York City may receive and complete an affidavit ballot at any polling place in New York State
    • the voter’s vote will count for the office of President and United States Senator and it will also count for any other candidate for office and district as well as any ballot initiative that appears on the official ballot in the voter’s home district.
For example, a voter staying with family in Orange County who was displaced from Westchester, would be entitled to vote for statewide contests and Supreme Court (because those 2 counties share a judicial district) and possibly a Congressional or State Senate contest. A voter who sought refuge further upstate might be eligible to vote only in the statewide contests, as they would share no other offices/contests.
Below is the text of the Executive Order:
No. 62

E  X  E  C  U  T  I  V  E  O  R  D  E  R



, on October 26, 2012, I issued Executive Order Number 47, declaring a disaster emergency in all 62 counties in the State of New York; and

, New York State is firmly committed to holding a fair and accessible general election and maximizing voter participation in this election; and

, Hurricane Sandy has struck a deadly blow, destroying lives, countless houses and businesses, displacing thousands of New Yorkers from their homes, disrupting transportation, the flow of commerce and daily life and complicating even the simplest and most routine acts of living; and

, New Yorkers who are victims of Hurricane Sandy should not lose their right to vote; and

, it is incumbent upon the State not to let this devastation undermine our democracy, and to actively facilitate the exercise of the fundamental, constitutional right to vote of registered voters who reside in the federally declared counties who have been impacted and displaced by Hurricane Sandy;

, I, ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law to temporarily suspend and otherwise alter or modify specific provisions of any statute, local law, ordinance, orders, rules or regulations, or parts thereof, of any agency during a State disaster emergency, if compliance with such provisions would prevent, hinder or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster, hereby temporarily suspend and otherwise alter or modify, for the period from the date of this Executive Order until further notice, the following:
Section 8-302 of the Election Law is temporarily suspended and otherwise altered and modified so that a voter seeking to vote by affidavit ballot need not affirm that such voter is duly registered in the election district in which such voter seeks to cast an affidavit ballot if such voter is registered to vote within one of the federally declared counties or New York City.
Section 9-209 of the Election Law is temporarily suspended and otherwise modified so that every board of elections in the State shall transmit the affidavit or provisional ballot of any voter who resides in one of the federally declared counties to the board of elections wherein such voter is registered to vote to be canvassed with other affidavit and absentee ballots for the election district wherein the voter resides.
Subparagraph (iii) of Paragraph (a) of Subdivision 2 of Section 9-209 of the Election Law is temporarily suspended and otherwise altered and modified so that the board of elections for the county in which such voter resides shall cast and canvass such ballot, if it determines that such voter was entitled to vote regardless of the fact that the voter may have appeared in the incorrect polling place, provided that such vote shall not be cast and canvassed for such contests for which the person was not entitled to vote at such election.

, the State Board of Elections shall promptly instruct county boards of elections on the proper implementation of this Executive Order including requiring such boards:
  1. to instruct poll workers to provide affidavit ballots and guidance to voters; and
  2. to provide notice and guidance to voters in accordance with this Executive Order: (a) that indicates
    that voters who reside in the counties of Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, or Westchester, or in New York City may receive and complete an affidavit ballot at any polling place in New York State; and (b) that the voter’s vote will count for the office of President and United States Senator and it will also count for any other candidate for office and district as well as any ballot initiative that appears on the official ballot in the voter’s home district.
Notice of this Executive Order and its contents shall be provided by the State Board of Elections on its website and by boards of elections, at a minimum, at every poll site and on any website maintained by such boards.
G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the
State in the City of Albany this fifth day
of November in the year two thousand twelve.
Secretary to the Governor

TEXT OF THANK YOU LETTER from New York City Board of Elections






NEW YORK, NY 10004–1609
(212) 487–5300
FAX (212) 487–5349




November 15, 2012

The Board of Elections in the City of New York would like to express its sincere gratitude to the multiple Federal, State, and City agencies for their immense and invaluable assistance in preparation for the General Election in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We have many to thank for helping us achieve the seemingly impossible.

The Board faced a share of challenges due to the damage inflicted by the storm throughout all five boroughs. Beyond purely operational challenges such as loss of electricity and damage to sites, the Board also faced: gas shortages, which affected our sizable transportation responsibilities to move voting equipment and supplies to poll sites in time for Election Day; the loss of our mainframe computers up until two days before the election; the loss of our call center until one day before the election; and the last minute announcement by the Governor that allowed residents to vote by affidavit ballot at any poll site, which required a larger supply of provisional ballots to every poll site as well as informing all poll site coordinators of this significant procedural change. The assistance of these groups was instrumental to a successful Election Day.

First, thank you to the City agencies, including the Governor’s and Mayor’s Offices, and the Department of Education, who aided the Board’s efforts to determine the usability and accessibility of each poll site in advance of the election. With their help, the Board was able to temporarily relocate or combine poll sites across all five boroughs to ensure that all voters were given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote on Election Day.

Thank you to the utility workers, who worked around the clock to as best they could restore power to our poll sites and throughout the City.

Thank you to the DOITT and Verizon for their dedicated work to restore the BOE website, so updates could be posted on the 60 new poll sites, training sites and Borough Offices’ hours of operations.

Thank you to the Department of Homeland Security, who in advance of the storm, who allowed the use of their Armory on Staten Island to house our voting equipment.. These machines were undamaged and operational on Election Day.

Thank you to local newspapers and community newspapers that graciously accepted our last minute advertisements that communicated the altered poll site locations.

Thank you to the good government and community groups who were instrumental in communicating Election Day changes. Thank you also to the Campaign Finance Board for their assistance communicating all operational changes made prior to Election Day.

Thank you to our amazing Board of Elections staff for all their hard work leading up to, through, and after the storm. As the storm rolled in, we kept our offices open on Sunday and Monday so we could meet requests for absentee ballots and continue our Election Day preparations, and continue our important poll worker training program. Those staff who weren't displaced or lost their own homes were back in borough offices on Wednesday morning after the storm.

Finally, thank you to the indefatigable New Yorkers who would not let anything stand in the way of their right to cast their vote.

Numerous organizations contributed to these efforts and each did their part to ensure that the General Election transpired as smoothly as possible given the trying circumstances. The Board extends its heartfelt appreciation to all of these organizations and to the individuals that volunteered during the election preparation.

The Board of Elections in the City of New York


Excerpt from December 5, 2012 Testimony of Dawn Sandow, Deputy Executive Director, and Pamela Perkins, Administrative Manager, Board of Elections in the City of New York before the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations to review the November 6, 2012 General Election


Upon learning of the approaching storm, the Board began to develop and implement a contingency plan that was approved by the Commissioners on October 29th.

All poll sites in “Zone A” were identified and their locations reported to Con Edison and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) so that any power outages at designated poll sites could be addressed prior to the election.

The planned delivery of equipment and poll worker training classes for Monday and Tuesday were rescheduled. In anticipation of losing access to critical computer files, senior staff made copies of all pertinent documents essential to election operations such as poll site lists, poll worker contact information and delivery schedules. Backup files for essential computer services like the voter database were brought to the disaster recovery location at our Queens office. A backup email system was established to assure internal communications could be maintained.

Aware of the potential for severe flooding at our Staten Island facility, we sought and received permission from the State of New York to move all voting equipment out of the Staten Island facility to the Armory. This move proved to be vital in our efforts to conduct the election since we would not have been able to deploy our equipment from our Staten Island facility.

The storm hit the City on Monday evening, October 29th, and continued into Tuesday October 30th one week before the General Election. The electrical power and telecommunications capability were lost at the Executive office disabling our main computer servers and restricting access to critical data. The Manhattan borough office was similarly affected. The dedicated members of our staff reported to whatever borough office or VMF facility they were able to get to, allowing the agency to resume some operations on Wednesday morning, October 31st.

Board staff immediately began the process of confirming that each poll site could still be used for the election. This proved to be quite difficult due the damaging effects of the storm.

Initially we learned that there were as many as 120 poll sites that may have to be relocated due to damage, loss of power and other issues that made them unsafe or otherwise unsuitable. During this time, working with the Mayor’s and Governor’s staff, the Board sought alternative sites to enable voters to exercise their most fundamental right.

In the end, we moved 61 poll sites, rescheduled deliveries, reassigned poll workers, and notified voters, all within less than a week of the election.

The Poll Site Locator was updated, newspaper advertisements were placed, and we notified community groups and media outlets in an effort to inform the voters of these emergency poll site changes. In addition, we posted this information on our website and distributed an informational flyer in storm affected areas regarding the poll site changes.

Since many of our poll workers were in affected areas and were either overwhelmed with personal recovery efforts or had left their homes, we mobilized every resource possible to recruit replacement poll workers and made sure they received training prior to the election.


Expecting a larger than normal turnout for the 2012 General Election, the Board ordered 250 affidavit ballots for each Election District. With over 5,200 Election Districts in the City, more than 1.3 million affidavit ballots were printed.

Just before 5 PM on Monday, November 5, 2012, the Board received the Governor's Executive Order allowing voters in New York City (and four other designated counties) to vote by affidavit ballot at any poll site in the State of New York.

In response, the Board printed over 60,000 additional affidavit ballots in- house. The Board received and fulfilled over 120 requests from poll sites for additional affidavit ballots, with the first request received at 8 AM on Election Day.

To date, we have over 300,000 affidavit ballots for the November 6th General Election and more affidavit ballots are still being received from other counties on a daily basis. By comparison, we had fewer than 190,000 affidavit ballots for the 2008 General Election.

PRESS RELEASE from Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

New York Poll Workers Struggle with New Hurricane Sandy Election Rules

November 6, 2012 -- Because many New York City neighborhoods, in particular Manhattan's Chinatown, were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Board of Elections changed the location of numerous poll sites, as recently as Monday evening before the election. On Monday, Nov. 5, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 62, allowing voters in federally declared disaster areas to cast affidavit ballots at any polling place in New York State. The voter's choices for President, U.S. Senator, and other candidates in the voter's home district, were to be counted on affidavit ballots.

However, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which monitored election poll sites in New York as part of its national poll monitoring and exit polling program, observed numerous poll workers ignoring the Executive Order and giving incorrect instructions to voters.

Incidents occurred at Confucius Plaza, P.S. 1, I.S. 131, and P.S. 126 in Manhattan's Chinatown and at St. Andrews School in Flushing, Queens, where poll workers refused to give out affidavit ballots to voters, saying that voters should return to their assigned poll sites.  In Chinatown, poll workers were unaware that they had the translated Chinese provisional ballots, and an AALDEF volunteer had to ask several times for these ballots to be provided. In Flushing, Queens, at the St. Andrew's School site, elderly Korean American voters were turned away by an interpreter. AALDEF also received reports that poll sites in Flushing complained that they were running out of affidavit ballots and envelopes. 

In Elmhurst, Queens, elderly Chinese American voters arrived at the Newtown High School poll site and were directed to go elsewhere, rather than given provisional ballots. They left without voting. AALDEF called in complaints to the Board of Elections on behalf of these voters.

In Jackson Heights (P.S. 69), for a period of about three hours, poll workers were unsure about Governor Cuomo's new order and denied that voters could vote via affidavit ballot at any site. AALDEF volunteers observed at least 20 Asian American voters who were sent away.

"It's a shame that despite the state's efforts to accommodate voters who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, many displaced voters, particularly Asian Americans, encountered barriers to the vote," said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of AALDEF's Democracy Program.


Ujala Sehgal, Communication Coordinator

Glenn Magpantay, Democracy Program Director