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Devastated Hurricane Sandy Victims Begin to Vote at Dawn's Early Light

By  Mathew Katz Joe Parziale Ben Fractenberg and Wil Cruz | November 6, 2012 8:30am | Updated on November 6, 2012 12:37pm

NEW YORK CITY — Polling sites at the some of the areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy were cold and dark in the early morning hours of Election Day — forcing volunteers to use flashlights and crank-up heaters in makeshift tents.

On Staten Island, Dorothy North, who works for the Department of Education, said her first floor was flooded after the hurricane. But that didn't stop her from coming out to vote on Tuesday.

"I lost my stuff. I have nothing left," she said. "But I came here because I vote Democrat, and I'm on Staten Island. Who else will?"

At P.S. 52 on Buel Avenue in South Beach, two heaters were set up for voters — but workers, most of whom were senior volunteers, were positioned in an area with no heat.

"They didn't inform us we'd be in a tent at all," said Diane, 67, who was sitting in her wheelchair while her husband rubbed her gloveless hands to keep her warm. "I dressed for being inside, not outside, and we cannot leave."

Diane, who asked that her last name not be used, said the volunteers were working in the dark, too.

"When we got here, nothing was set up," she added, noting that the site opened at 5 a.m. "It was pitch black."

Polling sites on Staten Island, the Rockaways in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn, some of the areas most devastated and still recovering from the killer storm, faced the most challenges in the city on Election Day.

In Coney Island, voters were inconvenienced by a lack of pens, scanning problems and a dearth of private voting booths.

"It looks like they're not very organized here," said Victor Lee, 50, after voting at Lincoln High School at 2800 Ocean Parkway. "It seemed very chaotic.

"The whole process should have taken one minute," Lee, who normally votes at the North Shore Nursing Home, added. "But it took 10 minutes."

Frances Chery, 25, a student at Kingsborough Community College, had it worse — she drove around with a nearly empty gas tank and missed an 8 a.m. class.

"I just didn't know where to go," said Chery, who lived at 2750 W. 33rd St., where she usually works. "I was just driving around until I found the spot."

At P.S. 108 in Rockaway Park, just a few blocks near ground zero in the Rockaways, a few dozen people came out early to vote. Against the backdrop of streets still filled with debris and garbage, the early morning voters braved the cold and filed into a massive white tent to vote.

"Politicians aren't taking care of the people down here are freezing and without water," said John Adorno, 65, a disabled Vietnam veteran, who lives in the area and whose home is flooded and powerless. "But it's still the right thing to do."

Adorno said he voted for Democrats President Obama and State Sen. Joseph Addabo because the party always puts forth money in the aftermath of natural disasters.

"As a veteran, they've supported me all through the storm," Adorno said. "They'll do what's right."

Suzanne Corrigan, meanwhile, said the destruction of the storm shouldn't stop voters from turning up at the polls.

"What does a natural disaster have to do with politics?" Corrigan, 60, asked. "Everybody needs to get their vote in."

The voter turnout in the Rockaways, however modest, spoke to the resilience of the locals who were still reeling from the storm.

"We have to move on, and who people as a community we're ready to move on," said Roseline Onoyne, a registered who drove to the polling site despite nearly being out of gas.

Peter Naas, 27, worried that voters, still shellshocked by Hurricane Sandy, would stay home.

"That was actually a big concern of mine," Naas, a real estate appraiser, said. "When you walk around and see overturned cars walking around your neighborhood, you [have] to wonder if that's gonna make an impact."

Volunteer Yetta Kurland said residents should applauded for coming out in the cold to have their voices heard.

"It's really the bulwark of democracy that people choose who they want to represent them," Kurland, who was helping voters navigate the sites and changes since the hurricane, added. "I think the fact that people are showing up on a freezing cold morning when they have so much else going on says a lot."