New Jersey voters grumble at makeshift polling stations
Impatient New Jersey voters queued up amid rubble and rotting rubbish left by superstorm Sandy as US presidential election officials scrambled to open makeshift polling stations on time.
In Hoboken, which lies just across the Hudson River from New York City and got hammered during the hurricane-strength storm last week, one of the makeshift polling stations opened 40 minutes late. About 60 people waited in the sharp morning chill.
"You're really late," one voter complained.
When the alternative station finally opened, a volunteer worker came out and told the grumbling crowd: "Please excuse the appearance of this place, two days ago it was under two feet of water."
Garbage and oily mud from the flood lined the sidewalks outside the polling station. Furniture, broken drywall, and plastic bags and scattered items including a Woody Allen DVD were piled waist high in some places.
But Adora Agim, an immigrant from Nigeria who was backing President Barack Obama for re-election, said the chaos was not enough to stop her from voting. "I have lived in a Third World country where your vote does not matter," she said. "It's nice to be somewhere where it matters."
John Margolis, a 46-year-old investment banker supporting Republican Mitt Romney, found that when he got inside, the electronic voting machine was not working.
He was told to join another line to fill out a paper ballot. That queue was too long and he decided to return later in the day, perhaps enough time to change his mind about who to vote for.
"Fiscally I am 100 per cent behind Romney, or I was until last week," said Margolis, who added that he had been impressed with the Obama administration's response to the storm. "It has been a long week in Hoboken, we only just got power yesterday," he said.
New Jersey is a Democratic stronghold and should have no major impact on the result of the presidential election. But the government's response to the storm could help swing voters elsewhere.
The northern half of New Jersey, and particularly Hoboken, suffered widespread storm damage when Sandy hit on October 29. Hundreds of thousands of people remained without power on Tuesday and gasoline was rationed across much of the state.
According to Nicole Mancino, the community spirit in Hoboken during the flooding and the co-operation between Obama and New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, was a good sign amid all the gloom.
"I'm more hopeful after this, because everywhere I've turned there's been people helping."