Storm-hit states in US to use army trucks as polling booths

With states like New York and New Jersey yet to restore power and transport services in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, officials in the disaster-hit areas will use military trucks as makeshift polling stations to enable citizens to cast their votes in the November 6 Presidential polls.

Authorities in the states impacted by Sandy are worried that elections would be the last thing on the minds of millions of residents, who are struggling to get their life back in order after the storm caused unprecedented damage.

"The extent of hurricane Sandy's destruction is impossible to fully describe," New Jersey's Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who is responsible for overseeing the division of Elections, said.

"For many New Jerseyans, the hurricane's impact may have made Election Day the last thing on their minds, but we want to make voting as easy as possible considering the devastating circumstances," she said.

Guadagno said polling stations in several counties of the state are not functioning as they do not have power or have been severely destroyed by Sandy but provisions have been made to use military trucks as polling stations.

"All the assets that the US President gave to our Governor, including Department of Defence (DoD) trucks will be used to create polling places," she said.

In places, where the polling stations have been damaged, voters "will find a DoD truck with a well-situated National Guardsman and a big sign saying, "'Vote Here.' There is no reason not to vote."

Guadagno said paper ballots would be used where there is no electricity and residents living in shelters would be hand delivered the ballots to enable them to cast their votes.

New Jersey has about 3,000 polling stations and voting hours are being extended to accommodate those impacted by the storm. Alternate sites are also being identified in cases where polling stations have been completely destroyed, she said.

The state also extended the deadline for when county clerks may accept mail-in ballot applications to the close of business on Friday.

Election officials said they could be handed in as late as Election Day, by the close of the polls.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging his voters to take advantage of the extended weekend hours at the state's county elections offices to cast their vote before Election Day.

"Despite the devastation that surrounds many of our citizens, we are committed to upholding and honouring our nation's ideals and having an open and transparent election," Guadagno said.

The Board of Elections in New York said its staff has been working round the clock to complete preparations for Election Day.

"Hurricane Sandy and the loss of electricity have made our task more challenging," it said.

In New York, arrangements are being made to set up alternate polling centres in areas where there is no power.

In its Queens borough, where fire destroyed many buildings, make-shift tents would be used as polling stations.

While New York and New Jersey are considered President Barack Obama's strongholds, the damage caused by the storm could delay the counting of votes.

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