Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 29, 2014

After Sandy, Utility Workers Get Power Back On and Vote Too

Hurricane Sandy is causing logistical problems for elections in places far away from the storm’s path of destruction.

Electric utilities from across the country have sent employees to the East Coast to assist local crews in the massive power restoration efforts. With little chance those employees return home by Election Day, some of their employers have worked to secure absentee ballots in their home states.

For instance, Florida Power & Light Co. has sent about 860 workers north to help in the efforts in communities from Virginia to New Jersey. FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said the company has been working to ensure the voting rights of a diverse workforce.

“For those that did not already cast their votes prior to deploying, we’re coordinating absentee ballot requests and returns in the field. We’ve got a coordinator in Delaware making sure the ballots get to the employees and then back to the county supervisors of elections,” Bubriski said in an email.

Bubriski highlighted the diversity of the company’s workforce. The company also created a video to highlight the efforts to get ballots to its employees.

FPL is not alone. Alliant Energy, a power company with operations in the presidential battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin, sent about 150 employees to New York’s Hudson Valley to help the local utility there, according to spokesman Justin Foss. He says the company realized over the weekend – before Sandy struck the East Coast – that the crews would be unlikely to return by Election Day. So the company worked with a law firm in Albany, N.Y., to ensure the ballots are delivered.

“Because of election laws and mailing requirements, this effort required a lot of coordination. It was well worth the effort and many of our crews on the East Coast said they appreciated knowing people back home were looking out for them,” Foss said.

Public Service of New Hampshire anticipated the potential problem, giving time for employees to cast absentee ballots in person at local town clerk’s offices on Monday, before Sandy hit the state, a spokesman for the utility said.

The Energy Department said Wednesday that it is working to help outside utilities and their contractors get crews to affected states, with an estimated 58,000 workers involved in the effort. San Diego Gas & Electric announced that more than 40 crews would be making the trip all the way to the New York metropolitan area to assist Consolidated Edison.

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