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New Jersey Voters Face Election Troubles After Storm


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

We heard earlier this hour about some of the complications of voting in New Jersey after last week's storm. Residents were allowed to vote by fax or email, or they could cast their ballot today the old-fashioned way, by heading to the polls.

NPR's Jim Zarroli has been watching the process in the coastal town of Belmar, New Jersey, which suffered a lot of damage. Good to have you with us, Jim.


NEARY: What have you been seeing there?

ZARROLI: Well, I actually was in two places today. I was in the town of Little Ferry, which is in Bergen County just across - closer to New York City. And now I'm in Belmar, which is on the coast, a beach town. Both towns had a lot of flooding and a lot of damage to homes. Both of them had to basically redo the way they voted because of the usual polling places were damaged.

Here in Belmar, they sent everybody to the municipal building, the town hall where I am now. In Little Ferry, they sent them to a middle school.

I think things have gone smoothly. You know, all day there's sort of been a trickle of people showing up, sometimes more than that. I talked to voters in both places. In Belmar, you know, there were a number of people who said, you know, this is just too important an election to miss. I spoke with a guy, a young guy who rode his bike to the polls because, you know, it's so hard to get gas these days. He didn't want to get out - use his car.

I talked to a couple who were living with relatives, really about an hour away. They came back just to vote. So there's a lot of determination to vote.

NEARY: And what about that option of voting by email or fax, are people taking advantage of that?

ZARROLI: You know, they're - I believe they are. I think there have been some problems in Essex and Hudson County; there have been reports that servers were down so people couldn't access the system. You know, I've heard people say they sent away for ballots, you know, which were supposed to be emailed to you and then you fill them out and send them back in. But some of them say they've had trouble getting responses. They've asked for them and haven't received them.

And also, people are supposed to email the ballots back and then also send the paper ballots back in. But I'm not sure that everybody fully understands that. So I think there's been, you know, a certain amount of confusion about the process.

NEARY: So, can you assess at this point the effect that the storm might have on voting in New Jersey, whether it's going to affect the number of people who are able to cast their votes or couldn't get to the polls?

ZARROLI: You know, it's hard to say. I mean, I talked to election officials in both towns and they seem think turnout was pretty good, people are showing up. It's hard to say because this is such an atypical election and things are being carried out in a different way. People are going to polling stations that they're not used to.

I mean, Belmar, for instance, where I am now, has been passing out flyers telling people, you know, don't go to here - go here. But, you know, if you're living someplace else, you might not get them. You know, and of course if you don't have power, that also limits your communication. But I think people are doing the best they can here in a difficult situation.

NEARY: NPR's Jim Zarroli. Jim, thanks for being with us

ZARROLI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lynn Neary is an NPR arts correspondent covering books and publishing.
Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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