* Confusion, long waits as storm-hit New Yorkers go to vote
* New York, New Jersey move to help voters cast ballots
* N.J. town orders evacuation as new storm system approaches
By Edith Honan and Philip Barbara
ROCKAWAY PARK, N.Y./BELMAR, N.J., Nov 6 Already
exhausted from a massive cleanup and nightmarish commutes to
work, thousands of U.S. voters in storm-struck New York and New
Jersey encountered confusion and long lines as they tried to
cast ballots in a cliffhanger presidential election.
Election officials face unprecedented challenges across the
U.S. Northeast, where polling stations were among the thousands
of buildings damaged by superstorm 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.
Sandy roared ashore on the Jersey coast on Oct. 29 as a rare
hybrid superstorm after killing 69 people in the Caribbean and
then merging with a strong North Atlantic system.
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 subway tunnels.
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 email.
"We want everyone to vote. Just because you are displaced
doesn't mean you should be disenfranchised," Cuomo said.
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
At a voting precinct set up in an unheated tent in the
Rockaways, a beachfront community in the New York City borough
of Queens that was hit hard by Sandy, voting was delayed for
about a half hour while poll workers struggled with the
By 7 a.m., about 50 voters - including some who had lost
their homes and traveled from temporary lodgings to get here -
had starting filling out ballots.
"We wanted to be the first ones in and out," said Melissa
Hays, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom who lives in the Rockaways
but has been staying with relatives in the Brooklyn neighborhood
of East Flatbush since the storm. "Once the sun comes up, it's
going to get crazy here."
Voting at the YMCA on West 63rd Street in Manhattan was
delayed because election officials could not find the ballot
cards and scanners were not working properly. Among those
arriving to vote there was Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive
of investment banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs. He left before
voting there began.
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 expose fissures in 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
Romney and Obama are virtually tied in pre-election polls.
Some 1.4 million homes and businesses were still without
power or heat as temperatures dropped below the freezing mark
across much of the area overnight. More than 217,000 people have
registered for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency and about $199 million in aid has been provided.
The exhausted region faced the prospect of a new storm - a
strong "nor'easter" forecast to bring frigid temperatures and
more rain and wind by the middle of the week.
With the ground in coastal New Jersey towns still saturated
with ocean water, officials feared the nor'easter could flood
them again. In Belmar, Lake Como and Spring Lake, officials
pumped out three lakes to allow groundwater to drain into them.
"By draining the lakes, we're lowering the water table in
the neighborhoods around them," Mayor Matt Doherty of Belmar
said on Monday. "We did this last year with Hurricane Irene and
we found it made a difference."
Just a couple of towns to the south in Brick, town officials
have issued a mandatory evacuation for waterfront neighborhoods
in advance of the new storm system's arrival. Residents of those
areas must leave by 6 p.m. Tuesday, the town said.
In New York City, most of the 15,070 schools reopened on
Monday but 57 suffered structural damage, 19 lacked power and 16
were closed because they were being used as shelters, officials
said. Schools were closed again Tuesday for Election Day.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed a director of housing
recovery operations to assist 30,000 to 40,000 people in need of
With the region's transportation network still disrupted a
week after the storm, commuters stood for an hour or more on
train platforms or street corners in New Jersey, Long Island and
Connecticut on Monday waiting for trains and buses.
The New York City subway ran at about 80 percent of its
Motorists endured long lines at gas stations. Many stations
still lacked electricity or gasoline. Fuel
rationing was in force in New Jersey, where some residents hired
school children to stand in line with gas cans.
Wreckage from the storm was spread far and wide. On Long
Island's southeastern shore, Southampton Town Trustee Bill Pell
spent Monday on a boat in the bays, retrieving 275-gallon
(1,040-litre) home fuel tanks that had been uprooted by the
"We started getting calls over the weekend about fuel tanks
floating in the bay," said Pell, 52, a fourth-generation
resident of eastern Long Island.
"While we were out retrieving fuel tanks in the bay, the bay
constables were going after looters, who are now trying to
access these areas by sea to loot the houses."
Crime had dropped 27 percent in New York City in the last
week compared to the same period last year, the police
department said, but burglaries were up 6 percent.