Sailors on storm duty get chance to vote
Special arrangements being made for Navy members at sea, guardsmen
The U.S. military, both active duty and guardsmen, are helping the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, including making sure the residents can vote Tuesday.
But the U.S. Navy has to not only worry about helping civilians, but also about taking care of some sailors who find themselves at sea when it's time to vote.
The USS Wasp is a large helicopter carrier anchored off the coast of New Jersey. It was at sea for some short-term training when Sandy formed and headed toward the Wasp's home port of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Navy ordered the Wasp to stay out to sea and sail away from the storm. After Sandy passed, the Wasp sailed to the New York/New Jersey area to provide help. Soon, 300 Marines from North Carolina flew out to the Wasp to join the relief effort.
That's the problem. The Wasp was already at sea when Sandy approached the United States. Had the storm not formed, the crew would have been back in port by Election Day and voting wouldn't be an issue.
While there are some 1,100 sailors and Marines on board the Wasp, many of them are registered to vote in their hometowns rather than in the counties around Norfolk, so their votes have likely been cast and mailed already.
The Navy is taking steps to make sure all the sailors get a chance to vote. "We are working at getting the sailors/Marines who are registered in Virginia to go online and print a federal write-in ballot. The Wasp is collecting the ballots and transferring these ballots prior to the election so each vote can be counted," said Lt. Commander Chris Servello in an e-mail response to questions sent from CNN.
The Wasp also has a voting assistance officer on board whose job is to help all the sailors and Marines on board clear the hurdles that might stand between them and casting a ballot on Election Day.
Arrangements also are being made to allow the 7,600 National Guardsmen helping with storm relief to vote. "For those currently on duty within their state, commanders are encouraged to implement rotation plans that will allow members to return to their polling site," according to the National Guard Bureau.
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