By Momin Rafi, Reporter for The Ram Page
Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, eight days before Election Day. With power knocked out and citizens displaced, county offices and municipalities faced the immense challenge of setting everything in place by Tuesday, Nov. 6, so that the election could take place.
According to Superintendent of Elections for Mercer County Catherine DiCostanzo, there were many logistical problems for Election Day, the primary one being the voting machine inspection.
All counties hold a date sometime before Election Day when any party running for election may go to see the voting machines, DiCostanzo said. While there, the parties ensure that the voting machines are working and meet their standards.
The inspection date for Mercer County was slated for Oct. 30, the day directly after Sandy hit. The Mercer County Board of Elections rescheduled the inspection, but a new problem arose when the warehouse holding the voting machines lost electricity.
“We had all the elected officials there and all the proper parties, and, by flashlight, we tried to look and make sure that they were happy with the machines and that everything was in the proper order,” DiCostanzo said.
According to DiCostanzo, Mercer County’s problems were small in comparison to the counties that suffered extreme damage. She noted, however, that Mercer County still had to use impromptu measures for Election Day.
Mobile polling units were created, alternative polling sites were designated, and additional provisional ballots were ordered. The Mercer County Board of Elections gave voters additional time to vote, and allowed them to come prior to Election Day to confirm their votes. They also made an extra effort to contact the citizens. The media was used as much as possible, TV appearances were frequent, and mail containing instructions on how and when to vote was sent to voters’ homes.
“It ensured that people had a right to vote and they took advantage of that extra time that we gave them,” DiCostanzo said.
All these efforts were not in vain, as voter turnout was high. According to Marie Peterson, an assistant supervisor at the Ocean County Board of Elections, voter enthusiasm was fantastic.
“[Voters] showed up in tremendous quantity and were very appreciative that they were able to get their votes cast,” Peterson said. “We received a lot of feedback from voters that were displaced and had issues from the storm. They were very happy that they were able to cast their vote and have some sort of normalcy in their lives. It was actually unbelievable—tremendous.”
According to high school senior and first-time voter Brett Celenze, his voting experience was fast and convenient. Celenze cast his vote at the Elks Lodge polling station.
“I think I stood in line for maybe a minute at most,” Celenze said. “It was pretty efficient.”
He said he planned on voting no matter the circumstance.
“I lost power for exactly a week...but regardless, I would go,” Celenze said. “It wasn’t going to affect whether or not I would vote.”
Many teams were involved in bringing about the success of Election Day in Mercer County, DiCostanzo said. These teams included but aren’t limited to the Mercer County Board of Elections, the county clerk’s office, the Superintendent of Election’s office, the county administration, and the municipal clerks. All these people worked together under crunch time to deliver a normal Election Day to the county.
This article originally ran in The Ram Page, Hightstown High School's official student newspaper.