Workers in the dark when it comes to planning for election day

Posted: 5:27 PM EDT Nov 01, 2012   Updated: 5:59 PM EDT Nov 01, 2012
Election work in the dark

We saw what Hurricane Sandy did to property and power lines.  Will she also wreak havoc on election day next week?

The loss of power has meant new deadlines for some absentee ballots, and it could mean new polling places. Right now, much of the pre-election process is in the dark.

Power cables and extension cords lined the halls outside the Lehigh County voter registration office Thursday. The power has been out since Tuesday, but with a presidential election a week away, the work continues in the dark.

"Computer-wise data bases of voters, checking voter information. It's very difficult, and it has been delayed," said Tim Benyo, Lehigh County's chief clerk of voter registrations and elections.

Gov. Tom Corbett pushed back the absentee ballot deadline for some voter registration offices until Monday because many had to close, but that was not the case in Lehigh County, where the deadline is still Friday at 5 p.m.

Even so, Benyo said some absentee ballots may not make it to his office in time, but that doesn't mean the vote is lost.

"In your polling place, you will be able to vote. In the poll book next to your name, you will have an absentee mark. You just sign over the absentee mark and then the poll worker will then void your absentee ballot, and you can vote on the machines," said Benyo.

Those machines, 672 of them, are now being delivered to 151 polling places, but some of the polling places have no power.

"So we have to wait until they have power and there is someone there," said Michael Berner, a voting machine technician.

Benyo said he will forward a list of polling places without power to the State Department, which will try to get PEMA to speed up the power restoration process. If not, a notice of a new location will be posted on the door of the powerless polling place.

Berks County's deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.; Northampton County's deadline is Monday.