Posted Online: Nov. 06, 2012, 9:36 pm
Sandy survivors dodge storm debris to vote
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HOBOKEN, N.J. _ Voters filing into a high school trudged past debris-strewn streets and clogged traffic in this waterlogged North Jersey city, only one of the obstacles residents faced as the state hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy tried to cast ballots.
Flooding and power outages shut more than 100 polling places across New Jersey, adding to confusion in some areas as voters were redirected to other sites.
County election officials added further uncertainty when they announced they could not count some ballots by Tuesday night. The state had allowed voters affected by the storm to fax or e-mail special ballots, but county clerks' offices were overwhelmed by applications.
Election officials in Essex County, home to Newark as well as upscale suburbs for New York City commuters, said they received more than could 3,000 faxed or e-mailed applications, more than they had expected.
"This was set in place for people who are truly displaced due to the hurricane disaster, not for easy voting," said Christopher Durkin, the county clerk. ". . .It doesn't seem as though the honor system is working, and it's a shame for the people who are truly displaced."
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey asked a state court to intervene, and election officials announced they would extend the application deadline through Tuesday afternoon, and allow residents displaced by Sandy to submit faxed or e-mailed ballots by 8 p.m. Friday.
Computer problems forced some polling places to delay opening until late Tuesday morning, according to Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also said some poll workers were unlawfully demanding identification from voters.
Residents in some battered Jersey Shore towns used mobile polling stations so residents, who still often wait in long lines for gas, wouldn't need to travel far.
Ruth Ann Murray, 75, cast her ballot in a recreational vehicle outside the shelter where she has lived since her Manahawkin home flooded.
"I think it's wonderful that we can still vote," Murray said, after she was lowered from the RV on a wheelchair ramp, saying she felt it was her duty to vote. "This is our country and we have to make sure it's being run as we want it to be."
In Point Pleasant, voters from four neighborhoods flooded by Sandy descended on a single polling place at the municipal building. National Guard trucks were parked out front, and voters swapped stories of the storm, and traded tips on finding housing and help.
"I didn't see anyone in the right line," said Pat Hullfish, a former town clerk whose home was flooded. "But we're so used to inconvenience now, that's nothing."
Ernest Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey's secretary of state's office, said officials are determined to give everyone _ even those who lost their homes in the storm _ a chance to vote.
"We've gone through a horrific storm," Landante said. "It would have been a shame not to do everything that we could to ensure that people who lost their homes would be able to vote. . . . They may have lost their home but they should not lose their right to vote."