absentee ballot
absentee ballotReuters

New Jersey residents who have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be allowed to vote by email and fax, according to a directive issued to county election officials Saturday by the New Jersey Department of State.

The move also is intended to help first responders who are assisting with recovery efforts and may be away from home on Election Day, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said in a statement.

“To help alleviate pressure on polling places, we encourage voters to either use electronic voting or the extended hours at county offices to cast their vote,” Guadagno said.

To vote electronically, voters must email or fax their mail-in ballot applications to their county clerk’s office. If the application is approved, the clerk will then send the ballot by fax or email to the voter. The ballots must be returned by fax or email by 8 p.m. on Nov. 6.

The State Department also issued an order to allow first responders and those affected by the storm to use provisional ballots at polling stations outside the county in which they are registered to vote.

Richard Hasen, a professor at the Univeristy of California, Irvine and election law expert said he is not aware of any other state that has allowed voters who are not overseas to cast email ballots. According to computer science experts, he said there's a "legitimate concern" that email ballots could be hacked or lost.

"There's all kinds of problems with it," Hasen said, according to CBS News. "The question is, do you use a fallible system like email voting or you disenfranchise [these displaced voters]. Given that choice, it seems like this is the right thing to do."

New Jersey has never had a voter turnout rate below 70 percent in a presidential election year, but turnout could be lower because of the storm, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.