NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Election Day turnout was heavy Tuesday in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, a welcome change from crisis to catharsis for many who saw exercising their civic duty as a sign of normalcy amid lingering devastation from Superstorm Sandy.
Authorities in both states were helping bring some displaced voters to their polling sites and directing others to cast ballots elsewhere.
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.
“Compared to what we have had to deal with in the past week, this will be a walk in the park when it comes to voting,” Cuomo said.
Those who don’t vote in their regular polling place won’t be able to vote in local races. Provisional ballots are counted after elected officials confirm a voter’s eligibility.
Authorities were also sensitive to concerns about potential disenfranchisement and were taking steps to ensure voters were kept informed of continued problems or changes to their voting locations.
“Maybe the fact that it is a little harder to do it this time in New York will give them to impetus to do it,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
In New York City, 66 polling places have been relocated or combined.
The MTA is providing “Voter Shuttle Buses” on Staten Island, Coney Island and in the Rockaways to bring voters to the polls. The free Election Day shuttle buses will run every 15 to 20 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The routes as well as the locations of the new polling sites and addition information is available at www.vote.nyc.ny.us.
There are currently more than 140,000 displaced city residents.
“It’s important for people to come out and vote even if it’s a little more difficult for them,” said New York City Board of Elections Commissioner Frederic Umane. “If it takes a little bit longer, if you have to go through a couple more hoops, we’re doing the best we can under some difficult circumstances.”
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports from the Bronx
The Locust Point Civic Center in the Bronx got washed out in Sandy so residents have been going to the temporary polling place set up under a tent at the MTA parking lot near the Throgs Neck Bridge tolls.
People came out despite still cleaning up from the flooding in the shore front community, 1010 WINS Juliet Papa reported.
“It’s a sense of civic duty, it’s a sense of pride in the country,” one voter said.
On storm-ravaged Staten Island, workers scrambled at the last-minute to set up a polling site Tuesday morning.
An hour before the 6 a.m. poll opening, flares were set up at the entrance to Public School 52 in the Midland Beach neighborhood. There was no light at all as police helped the poll workers get gas for their generator.
The voting machines had to be retrieved from inside the school and moved into tents and heaters were stacked on tables in the tents. The temperature was around 29 degrees as bundled up voters began to line up in the dark.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On Staten Island
The polling site change also caused some confusion Tuesday morning. School officials said several Staten Island residents showed up at an original voting location at the Staten Island Academy.
“They don’t even have signs at the school. Everyone parks their car, gets out and walks around,” said voter Nancy Benedetto. “This is absurd, totally absurd. I’m going to be late for work.”
There was no official signage at the academy Tuesday saying the polling place had been moved. The private school made a hand-written sign and placed it outside the driveway.
On Long Island, some polling places have been closed and other consolidated in Oceanside. Some voters early Tuesday morning were confused by the changes and others left without ever casting a ballot.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
“I don’t even know where to vote yet,” one woman said.
Nassau County Elections Commissioner William Biamonte said officials are trying to get information about polling places out to voters.
“If they go to their regular polling place, if they’re not sure, there will be signage at their old polling place if it’s been moved,” he said. “Ninety-plus percent of the polling places have not been moved.”
Still, Biamonte said this year’s Election Day is like nothing he’s ever seen. Some polling places hadn’t had machines delivered. In one case, poll workers’ bus came at 7 a.m. instead of 5 a.m.
“This is Murphy’s Law on steroids,” he said. “Whatever’s gone wrong, could have gone wrong. Lets get through the day and hope for the best.”
But by about 8 a.m., most of the problems had been resolved, he said.
A toll-free number has been set up to help New York voters with questions, poll site changes and absentee ballots. The number is 1-855-NYS-SANDY (1-855-697-7263).
People can also call 800-771-7755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org any time between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday to report problems at the polls.
In New Jersey, election officials said fewer than 100 polling places around the state were without power compared with just eight days ago. Most voters will be able to cast ballots at their regular polling sites, officials said.
Voters in Hoboken lined up to vote, despite flooding and widespread power outages from Sandy.
“We went through hell but we survived,” one resident told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller. “It was a long line, which is a good thing. People are going out and voting, which is what you should be doing.”
WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reports from Hoboken
Wallace Primary School in Hoboken is serving as a polling place and a temporary shelter.
One voter said the events of the past week have affected his thought process ahead of Election Day.
“A lot of us can well afford to pay our way out of this problem but a lot of us can’t and that is certainly a big consideration,” the voter said. “It has caused a lot of reflection about people who even before the storm were living in kind of a tenuous and precarious situation, and I spent a good amount of time thinking about what’s going on with those people.”
One woman has been staying with friends an hour south of Hoboken but said it was important for her to make the trip to cast her ballot.
“Voting is really important to me, my mother is an immigrant from another country,” she told Miller. “Once she got her citizenship, she always voted.”
In Bergen County, residents of Moonachie showed up to a vocational-technical school to vote in the same gym where many were evacuated a week earlier. At the shore, voters in Point Pleasant expressed relief and even elation at being able to vote.
Ernie Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Elections also said the state had taken extra steps to make sure people displaced by Sandy’s destruction would be able to vote, like allowing “authorized messengers” to pick up as many mail-in ballots as they request for people in shelters or away from their homes.
“We are doing everything we can in this extraordinary situation not to disenfranchise voters displaced by Sandy. Their voices and their votes will be heard no differently than anyone else’s,” Landante said.
But authorities abruptly switched gears on an additional directive that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office announced allowing displaced New Jersey residents to vote through email and fax.
The directive allowed voters to request and file a ballot electronically. But under pressure from voting rights advocates, officials said those voters would have to submit a paper ballot along with the electronic filing — a rule the state’s military personnel and residents living overseas are required to follow as well.
A list of county clerk websites, phone numbers and fax numbers are available by clicking here. Ballot applications can be downloaded from the state’s website.
If you need information on your polling station, text “877877″ with your home address.
Polls in New York are open until 9 p.m. and in New Jersey and Connecticut until 8 p.m.
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