- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Early and absentee voting will proceed Wednesday in the District, Maryland and Virginia after being disrupted by Hurricane Sandy Monday and Tuesday, and all three jurisdictions have extended voting hours to make up for time lost.

Early voting hours were canceled in Maryland and the District both Monday and Tuesday.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said the state will resume early voting on Wednesday and extend its hours. While early voting was initially scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and end on Thursday, the hours will now extend from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and last through Friday.

The first two days of early voting in Maryland were extremely busy, with 134,256 voters — nearly 4 percent of the state’s registered voters — casting ballots over the weekend. Lines wrapped around early voting centers and some voters reported waiting for hours.

Throughout many news updates during the megastorm, Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said that he would do his best to restore the early voting hours lost because of the severe weather.

The D.C. Board of Elections announced Tuesday it would resume early voting on Wednesday morning with extended hours. The sites will close at 9 p.m. — instead of 7 p.m. — to make up for long lines on Saturday and lost time during storm closures on Monday and Tuesday.

“We should remember, too, that until a couple years ago we had no early voting,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said at a news conference Tuesday. “All the voting was taking place on Election Day.”

Mr. Gray, a Democrat, said the board will utilize more machines at its eight early voting sites to cut down on long lines. The sites will open each day at 8 a.m. until early voting ends on Saturday.

Polling places on Election Day will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Virginia does not have early voting open to everyone, but voters may cast in-person absentee ballots until Saturday if they qualify based on one or more of about a dozen conditions — like they will be absent from their county or city on Election Day or they cannot make it to the polls because of an illness, disability or pregnancy.

Twenty-four of Virginia’s 134 voter registrars’ offices were closed for all or part of Monday and nine were closed for much of Tuesday — including Accomack, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Tazewell and Wise counties, as well as the cities of Falls Church and Manassas Park. Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote a letter to local registrars authorizing them to extend absentee voting by up to eight additional hours. Fairfax County reopened in-person absentee voting at its main government center from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“I don’t want anything to interrupt full participation of democracy as we go up into this presidential election,” Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, said. “We don’t believe there will be any problem with any voting location, any precinct, of the 2,800 or so precincts — none of them, we anticipate, will have any problem being fully operational next Tuesday.”

Mr. McDonnell, Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Gray were three of a group of about 20 governors and mayors on a conference call with President Obama on Tuesday to discuss the aftermath of the storm.

“When we have natural disasters, the partisanship goes out the window,” Mr. McDonnell said. “And I really believe that … nobody is concerned about politics when it comes to the weather. Everybody worked together well. So I think FEMA has done a very good job, as I’ve complimented them on previous occasions, and again with this storm, the outreach — two occasions, Sunday and today — was very, very good. So I think the system’s working the way that it should. Each level of government is doing what they should do. They know what their areas are … I think every level of government has gone a step probably above and beyond the call to do the right thing.”

At the federal level, Vice President Joseph R. Biden echoed those sentiments.

“I’ve never in all my experience seen as much cooperation, and acknowledgment of that cooperation, from city, state, federal levels,” Mr. Biden said, according to a pool report. “So it’s working like it’s supposed to. And I’m really proud of our team, and I’m also proud of the way the governors have all stepped up with the mayors. Hearing the mayor of Philadelphia and the governor of Pennsylvania, two different parties, talking about the cooperation. Hearing [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie talk about the cooperation he has with the mayor of Newark.”

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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