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Hard-hit voters defy Sandy devastation

Despite ongoing recovery from last week's storm, voters in some of the hardest hit areas come out in force to vote in presidential elections.

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People whose lives were upended by Hurricane Sandy joined other voters on Tuesday to cast ballots after elected officials in New York and New Jersey rushed to move scores of polling places that had become unusable because of power failures, flooding or evacuations.

With neighbourhoods still inundated by debris, silt and water, many people had to go to great lengths to cast a ballot in places that are little recovered from what officials describe as the worst storm damage to hit the New York City region, and where the prospect of more violent wind and torrential rain is looming.

New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said a powerful nor'easter expected to hit the area late on Wednesday could bring a surge in the water level of as much as 1.5 meters at high tides — far less than the hurricane brought ashore, but enough to reflood low-lying areas.

Vote goes on ... a Rockaway resident and New York City firefighter, Terence O'Donnell, marks his ballot in a makeshift tent set up as a polling place in the storm-hit Rockaways.

Vote goes on ... a Rockaway resident and New York City firefighter, Terence O'Donnell, marks his ballot in a makeshift tent set up as a polling place in the storm-hit Rockaways. Photo: AFP

With one eye on the approaching storm, untold thousands of residents in the region devoted their energy, patience and, in some cases, ingenuity to voting.

Just after daybreak in Bay Head, New Jersey, Shelly Coleman and her husband, Terrance, bundled up in winter jackets, left their sodden, water-damaged home and headed to the Bay Head firehouse, where a makeshift polling place had sprouted — literally overnight.

The firehouse, powered by an industrial-size generator that rumbled like the engine of a jet airliner, was one of the few places with heat in the tiny seaside borough, just below Point Pleasant Beach.

"Guess what? We got water back on Friday. It was so exciting," Shelly Coleman said, approaching the borough's clerk.

Though the region hit by Hurricane Sandy is not expected to be in play in the presidential election, the combination of the storm and heavy turnout yielded long lines, confusion, frustration and anger.

At several polling sites in New York City, the vote scanning machines being used for the first time in a presidential election malfunctioned, forcing workers to resort to paper ballots and slowing the process even more.

Maura Green was trying to vote in the East Village but her ballot was rejected by the scanning machine, and she had a hard time getting help from poll workers, some of whom were blaming one another for the problems.

"It seemed the poll workers were not very organized or didn't prepare," Green said. "It was very chaotic. They didn't seem to have a plan."

The New York Times