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Hurricane Sandy Victims Vote Amid Storm Chaos


Tuesday was not an easy day for voting in the Northeast. Communities hit hard by last week's storm saw long lines and confusion. NPR's Robert Smith spent yesterday in New York City neighborhoods without power and has this report.

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: Before you can vote for a government you have to trust your government, and trust is in short supply on the Rockaway Peninsula these days.

TIM GRUBB: We have no power. We have no electricity. We have no lights. We have no security. We have nothing, and it's cold and it's crazy down here.

SMITH: And so Tim Grubb did not vote. Even though he lives just two blocks from a giant white tent being used as his neighborhood polling place. Tim Grubb just went back to pulling the wet sheetrock off the walls of his flooded home.

GRUBB: I'm not anti-government. I'm just taking a break this time.

SMITH: On Election Day in the Rockaways, democracy did not look easy. The polling place was chaotic.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: One more time. You are going to vote by emergency ballot....

SMITH: Officials couldn't start the generator at first. The polling tent had no lights, no heat. Johanna Gregory and Peggy Thomas arrived holding this confusing set of directions on where to vote.

JOHANNA GREGORY: Well, this is the paper right here. Hamilton Community Center. Should to go PS 14 in Bayswater. That's wrong.

SMITH: How could they know? The voters of the Rockaways hadn't been watching the news. They had no power, remember. They hadn't been getting mail. Some didn't have phones that worked. Other had lost everything. And yet, despite this, people showed up.

They walked from their wrecked houses and their dark, powerless high rises and they stood in line, patiently. Deborah Pearson was near the front of the line, waiting to vote at six in the morning.

DEBORAH PEARSON: I have no heat so that helps me get up very early.

SMITH: OK. Maybe that isn't inspiring. But that's not the point. Pearson didn't seem excited about being out here to vote. She was here because she felt she had to vote.

PEARSON: It's a right. Must exercise it beyond all things. You know, this is just something you have to do.

SMITH: And that pretty much sums up life right now in the storm zone. People haul out their wet furniture, shovel out the mud, start to rebuild. They're doing what they have to do. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
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