People leave a polling station after casting their ballots
during the US presidential election at a polling station
set up for those affected by Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken,
New Jersey. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Storm-weary residents across the New York and New Jersey
area encountered confusion and long lines as they went to cast
ballots in the presidential election today, and regional
officials began scrambling to prepare for a new weather threat
due as early tomorrow.
With the wounds of superstorm Sandy still far from healed and
nearly 900,000 households and businesses still without power,
officials began ordering closures and evacuations ahead of a
powerful nor'easter that could lash the region with 95kmh
winds and a mix of rain and snow as temperatures drop toward
the freezing mark or below.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered all city parks and
beaches closed at noon on Wednesday (local time) for at least
"We just don't need to send our first responders into the
ocean to save someone who is being foolish," Bloomberg said.
In the town of Brick on the New Jersey shore, local officials
issued a mandatory evacuation order for waterfront
neighbourhoods. Residents of those areas must leave by 6 p.m.
Tuesday, the town said. Several nearby lakes were drained to
ease the flooding risk.
The new threat comes on the heels of Sandy, which killed 69
people in the Caribbean before it moved north, combined with
a strong North Atlantic system, and roared ashore on the New
Jersey coast on October 29 as a rare hybrid superstorm.
It killed at least 113 in the United States and Canada and
knocked out power to millions of people while swamping
seaside towns and inundating New York City's streets and
Officials face unprecedented challenges for Election Day
across the region, where polling stations were among the
thousands of buildings damaged by Sandy eight days ago. New
York and New Jersey took measures to ease the way for
residents already coping with devastating flood damage, power
outages and widespread fuel shortages.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said New Yorkers would be able
to vote at any polling place by presenting an affidavit. In
New Jersey, those affected by Sandy will be designated as
overseas voters, allowing them to cast ballots by fax or
Cuomo's order appeared to create confusion among poll
workers, with paper ballots and affidavits in some cases
being distributed even to voters who arrived at their regular
polling place as opposed to only those whose assigned voting
station was elsewhere.
Long lines at polling stations were a common scene around the
At a voting place in Rockaway Park, a hard-hit beachfront
neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, Sharon
Brown was so determined to cast her vote that she returned to
her flooded home the night before in order to be within
walking distance of what she believed to be her voting
"Living through that storm, watching that water come up, it
really makes you think you have to vote," Brown said as she
waited in line in the unheated tent that served as the voting
station for several precincts.
When she got to the head of the line though, Brown learned
that she had come to the wrong place after all. Still, as she
fretted about having enough gas to get to her assigned
location and to where she is living temporarily in Brooklyn,
she opted to cast a ballot by affidavit, as allowed under
In Bay Head, New Jersey, most residents had to flee inland
for shelter after Sandy wrecked their exclusive seaside
community but many were returning Tuesday so they could vote.
Some drove for two hours to get to the firehouse polling
"We're very patriotic in this town," said longtime resident
Joanne Pehlivanian. "We're going to vote no matter what."
She said the turnout of 170 by mid-morning indicated the
usual 400 to 500 people would vote despite the extraordinary
While President Barack Obama was expected to win easily in
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the states most
affected by Sandy, the storm could spotlight the arcane
Electoral College system that decides the presidency.
One possibility is that low voter turnout in storm-ravaged
states could allow Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win
the popular vote even if Obama wins the state-by-state
Electoral College race.
Romney and Obama are virtually tied in pre-election polls.