Damaged cities get ready for election

 

Five days after Superstorm Sandy struck America's east coast, an extraordinary joint effort by federal and state organisations and private industry was straining to get the region back into a fit condition to hold an election.

There are many localities still badly devastated, and officials in New Jersey and New York are assessing polling sites to decide which will be up and running by Tuesday. Power companies have been asked to make electricity supplies for election sites a priority once they have restored power to hospitals and other vital services. Voting in New York and Connecticut, which use "optical scan" ballots filled out by hand, could take place without electricity if necessary.

Polls still show the candidates pretty much tied nationally, but Barack Obama leading in a majority of the nine swing states. About 26 million people have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia. On the last day of early voting in Florida, voters at some sites in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were waiting up to four hours to cast ballots. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, asked his state's Republican governor to extend early voting to Sunday, citing "an untold number of voters being turned away or becoming too discouraged to vote".

No votes will be counted until election day, but several battleground states are releasing the party affiliation of early voters. So far, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. Republicans have the edge in Colorado. Mr Obama's lead is not as big as the one he held over John McCain in 2008. Republicans quietly acknowledged that Mitt Romney had so far been unable to achieve the breakthroughs needed in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin.

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