Two years ago this week New Jersey was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, which left 8.2 million households without power in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The storm killed 34 people in New Jersey. Power outages throughout the state affected 2.4 million homes and businesses. The storm displaced roughly 61,000 families in New Jersey; 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 22,000 housing units were rendered uninhabitable. Even today, not all New Jersey residents left homeless by Sandy have been able to return to their homes. In response to Sandy, which hit only eight days before the 2012 presidential election, Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, the state’s head election official, implemented five emergency voting measures, ostensibly to help people vote. As detailed in the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Rights Clinic’s report: “A Perfect Storm: Voting in New Jersey in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy,” published last week, the state’s emergency measures were misguided and illegal, and left millions of votes vulnerable to manipulation.
The most far-reaching provision in the emergency measures was allowing displaced voters to vote via the Internet or by fax. With extensive power outages throughout the state, it made no sense to put in place measures that required the use of electricity and technology that does not work when waterlogged.
Moreover, there were no procedures in place to ensure that people who were voting electronically were displaced. Documents show that county election officials sent multiple communications to the director of the Division of Elections, Robert Giles, saying that voters who were not displaced were taking advantage of the emergency measures and voting electronically from home. Additionally, some counties let emergency and workers and disabled individuals vote electronically, even though they were not displaced.