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Voters in NY, NJ not deterred by storm's effects

 

 

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. — Election Day turnout was heavy Tuesday in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation.

Lines were long in Point Pleasant, N.J., where residents from the Jersey Shore communities of Point Pleasant Beach and Mantoloking had to cast their ballots due to damage in their hometowns.

Many there still have no power eight days after Sandy pummeled the shore.

"Oh my God, I have been so anxious about being able to vote," said Annette DeBona of Point Pleasant Beach. "It's such a relief to be able to do it. This is the happiest vote I ever cast in my life."

The 73-year-old restaurant worker was so worried about not being able to vote that she called the police department several days in advance, as well as her church, to make absolutely sure she knew where to go and when. She was one of the first to cast a ballot in her neighboring town, choosing Mitt Romney.

"I truly believe Romney is an honest, caring man," she said. "He will lift us out of our spiritual and mental depression and help us believe again."

Renee Kearney of Point Pleasant Beach said she felt additional responsibility to cast a ballot this Election Day.

"It feels extra important today because you have the opportunity to influence the state of things right now, which is a disaster," the 41-year-old project manager for an information technology company said.

She had planned all along to vote for Obama, but said her resolve was strengthened by his response to Superstorm Sandy.

"I was extremely impressed by his response to the storm," she said. "For people who were not so certain about him, I think this may have sealed the deal."

Authorities in New York and New Jersey were set to drive some displaced voters to their polling sites and direct others to cast ballots elsewhere as residents insisted the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy wouldn't stop them from participating in Tuesday's election.

"Nothing is more important than voting. What is the connection between voting and this?" said Alex Shamis, a resident of hard-hit Staten Island, gesturing to his mud-filled home.

The efforts put a premium on creativity. At a public school in Staten Island's Midland Beach, flares were set up at an entrance to provide light, and voting machines were retrieved from inside the school and moved into tents where voters braved 29-degree temperatures as they lined up.

Voters arriving at another Staten Island school found no official signage referring them to a new polling place, but those who arrived on foot were taken to the correct location by a shuttle bus, officials said. A hand-written sign eventually was placed at the school's driveway.

Election officials in both states were guardedly optimistic that power would be restored and most polling places would be open in all but the worst-hit areas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders, an opportunity New Jersey was extending to voters as well.