Many people across New Jersey who lost their homes in last week’s megastorm or are still without power went the extra mile, literally, to get out and vote Tuesday.
In Bergen County, residents of Moonachie showed up to vote in the same gym where many were evacuated last week.
Joan Andrews fled her trailer by boat and National Guard truck to reach the safety of the Bergen County Vocational-Technical School in nearby Teterboro a week earlier. By Election Day, the flood waters had long since receded, but Andrews -- who still has no heat or hot water and lost two cars -- returned to the school, the first person off the shuttle bus organized by the town to get residents to the polls.
"I always have to vote, especially now," said Andrews, 68, a retired customer service agent. Many of her fellow flood victims were too overwhelmed to make time for voting, but Andrews said she’d encouraged her neighbors to make the time.
"It’s the last thing on their minds, but it should be No. 1 because this is what’s going to affect us in our future."
At the Jersey Shore, voters in Point Pleasant expressed relief and even elation at being able to vote.
"Oh my God, I have been so anxious about being able to vote," said Annette DeBona of Point Pleasant Beach. "It’s such a relief to be able to do it. This is the happiest vote I ever cast in my life.
The 73-year-old restaurant worker was so worried about not being able to vote that she called the police department several days in advance, as well as her church, to make absolutely sure she knew where to go and when. She was one of the first to cast a ballot in her neighboring town, choosing Mitt Romney.
Rich Schwartz, a 71 year-old bus driver from Point Pleasant Beach, also sustained serious storm damage to his home on the boardwalk. But he drove to the polls in neighboring Point Pleasant Borough before 7 a.m. to cast one of the first ballots.
"I couldn’t wait to vote for Obama; I’d have voted for him on the moon if I had to," Schwartz said. "I’m a lunch-bucket Democrat."
Fran Bossard, 76, a longtime resident of Beach Haven, on devastated Long Beach Island, cast her ballot at the polling place set up for displaced islanders in the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township.
She said five feet of water damaged her first-floor rental unit, where she has a tenant, but not her own living space.
Staying with family friend in Manahawkin, and with her daughter’s family also evacuated from Beach Haven, Fran had three family dogs in her car when she came to vote.
"I would never miss a vote, and I want my man to get in," said Bossard, a Republican.
Not everyone was in a voting mindset, however.
In Hoboken, 76-year-old retired mechanic Anthony Morrone said he hasn’t missed a vote since coming to the U.S. in the late 1960s. But other necessities were taking priority Tuesday.
"No time, no time to vote, too much to do," Morrone said, rattling off a list including mucking out the first floor, ripping out drywall, scooping Hudson River debris out of his driveway in a home a good quarter-mile from the river. "Too much going on," he added.