Heavy turnout in Sandy hit New Jersey, New York

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington/New York: Super storm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York witnessed heavy turnout as America went to polls to decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama or replace him with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

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In worst hit New Jersey, authorities took extra steps to enable people displaced by Sandy’s destruction to vote in Tuesday’s election, like allowing “authorized messengers” to pick up as many mail-in ballots as they request for people in shelters or away from their homes, a media report said.

The state has extended the deadline for email voting for displaced residents giving them until 8 p.m. Friday to return email and fax ballots. But they were still required to request the ballots by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“We are doing everything we can in this extraordinary situation not to disenfranchise voters displaced by Sandy,” New Jersey Division of Elections spokesman Ernie Landante Landante was quoted as saying by CBS.

Officials said fewer than 100 polling places around the state were without power compared with 800 just days ago. Most voters will be able to cast ballots at their regular polling sites, they said.

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

In New York City, where there are more than 140,000 displaced residents, more than 60 polling places were relocated or combined, CBS Station WCBS reported. Bus service is being provided in the hardest-hit areas to take voters to their new polling places.

On storm-ravaged Staten Island, workers scrambled to set up a polling site Tuesday morning. An hour before the 6 a.m. opening, flares were set up at the entrance to a public school in the Midland Beach neighbourhood as there was no light.

The voting machines had to be retrieved from inside the school and moved into tents, and heaters were stacked on tables inside. The temperature was below freezing point as bundled-up voters began to line up in the dark.

On Long Island, some polling places have been closed and other consolidated in Oceanside.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])