TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- One storm-battered New Jersey county was delivering ballots to emergency shelters Monday while New York City was lining up shuttle buses to ferry people in hard-hit coastal areas to the polls. With the presidential election looming just a week after Superstorm Sandy's devastation, authorities were scrambling to make voting as manageable as possible while election watchers warned any shortcuts could compromise the integrity of the balloting.
Election officials in both New Jersey and New York were guardedly optimistic that power would be restored and most polling places would be open in all but the worst-hit areas for Tuesday's election. Both states were allowing displaced residents to cast a provisional ballot for president and statewide office-holders in any polling place.
"Compared to what we have had to deal with in the past week, this will be a walk in the park when it comes to voting," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
But authorities were also sensitive to concerns about potential disenfranchisement and were taking steps to ensure voters were kept informed of continued problems or changes to their voting locations.
Ernie Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Elections, said fewer than 100 polling places around the state were without power compared to 800 just days ago, and that the state has abandoned its earlier plan to use military trucks as makeshift polling places. Most voters will be able to cast ballots at their regular polling sites, he said.
But Landante also said the state had taken extra steps to make sure people displaced by Sandy's destruction would be able to vote, like allowing "authorized messengers" to pick up as many mail-in ballots as they request for people in shelters or away from their homes.
"We are doing everything we can in this extraordinary situation not to disenfranchise voters displaced by Sandy. Their voices and their votes will be heard no differently than anyone else's," Landante said.
But an additional directive announced by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie allowing displaced New Jersey residents to vote through email and fax has drawn criticism from some voting-rights advocates who warned of potential fraud.
Under the directive, voters will be allowed to request and file a ballot electronically. The state's military personnel and residents living overseas also vote that way, but they are also required to file paper ballots -- a rule that election watchers said must be applied to voters displaced by the storm as well.
Penny Venetis, a professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, said she and other advocates planned to file a lawsuit asking a judge for clarification that if the state does not adopt the paper ballot rule.
"We think it's great that the governor's office is thinking of ways that people are displaced can vote," Venetis said, but added that safeguards must be put in place to protect against fraud.
Larry Norden, a voting-rights advocate at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said the email and fax option wouldn't be viable for voters still without power.