In Storm-Ravaged N.J. Town, A Scramble At The Polls

It was not an ordinary Election Day in Belmar, N.J., one of the beach towns that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Some of the regular polling places were flooded, and town officials had to come up with new ways to get voters to the polls.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And it was no ordinary Election Day either in Belmar, New Jersey, one of the beach towns that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Some of the regular polling places were flooded out and town officials had to come up with new ways to get voters to the polls. NPR's Jim Zarolli reports.

JIM ZAROLLI, BYLINE: These days the Belmar Town Hall has been turned into a kind of rescue center for displaced residents, a place where they can get food and clothing. And yesterday they could vote, too.

BILL YOUNG: You can vote by email, you can vote by fax, or you can vote in person.

ZAROLLI: Borough administrator Bill Young says the usual polling stations in Belmar were either damaged in the storm or being used for other purposes. So the voting machines were set up in Town Hall. Yesterday afternoon I asked him how things were going.

YOUNG: Good. I mean, I was here at six o'clock and I saw probably 25 people at ten after six, lined up to vote. That's good numbers.

ZAROLLI: Outside, a steady stream of people filed into the building.

ERIC SCHNEIDER: Oh, it's about staying sure.

ZAROLLI: Eric Schneider, who runs a concession company called Mom's set up a table offering food to voters. A lot of people have been donating things to the town. Seventy-eight year old Mary Robertson sat on a bench eating a hot dog. She's still living in her damaged house, even though it's had no heat and no power for a week.

MARY ROBERTSON: I'm one of the few old buggers that stayed.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTSON: Nowhere to go or I'd go.

ZAROLLI: But she made sure to get to the polling station to vote.

ROBERTSON: This is my country, my president. I've got to get rid of him.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAROLLI: A lot of people had to jump through hoops to get to the polls. One young man casting his first vote ever came on a bicycle. It's hard to get gas for his car, he explained. I spoke to a couple whose power is out. They're living in southern New Jersey with relatives. They had to drive an hour to come back and vote. Pat Wan came out of the building after voting and looked at the crowd.

PAT WAN: It was interesting to come in and see all your neighbors and everyone here voting, even though none of us have homes, or some of us don't. You know, it's just America. It's great.

ZAROLLI: And with their votes cast, Belmar residents returned to the much more daunting task of rebuilding their lives. Jim Zarolli, NPR News.

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