Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sandy Likely To Affect New York Voter Turnout


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The triumph in some parts of the country this morning is that people are able to vote at all. Just over a week after Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore, people are voting today in New Jersey.

And in New York City, NPR's Robert Smith is in the Borough of Queens, part of New York City. He's on the line. Robert, what have you seen today?

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: Well, I'm actually in Rockaway Beach. And I'm at one of the few operating polling centers here. And it is sort of amazing. One poll worker described it as looking like a refugee camp. There's a giant tent. There are no lights on inside the tent so it's very dim. It's very hard to see. And in fact I can poke my head in right now because there's holes in the tent, and I can see people voting at these machines.

The only glow is the light of the electronic machines. They're filling out their forms and scanning them. And from early, early, early this morning, people were lined up to vote in what are very, very difficult conditions. There's no heat here. There's no light. The floor is covered with dirt from when the ocean had washed over this area. But people are coping well with it.

INSKEEP: Well, you said Rockaway Beach. This is one of the most exposed parts of the Borough of Queens. And when you say refugee camp, it must feel that way to a lot of people because they have had so many basic services taken away.

SMITH: Oh, absolutely. I mean the people I spoke to this morning, at 6:00 a.m., when this polling place opened - and I should say there were troubles getting this place open. There was no fuel for the generators, but people waited patiently in line. And they told me that one of the reasons they got there this early is because they have no heat in their buildings. No heat, no light, and they thought, well, if I'm going to do anything, I might as well vote.

I talked to one voter. His name is Isaiah Donaldson and he said he just decided he was going to get up early and come out.

ISAIAH DONALDSON: I got up. I walked through the dark and made sure I voted. Being out here has been very stressful, being that there's no light. So things have been very hectic, but hopefully as the day goes by, it will gradually get better.

INSKEEP: Given everything, Robert Smith, do people seem enthused about voting?

SMITH: Absolutely. The people who have shown up, I mean they - they wouldn't let anything stop them. I will say I talked to a lot of people this morning who said there's no way they're voting. They just have too much to deal with. I talked to three guys. They were trying to get a car off of a low concrete wall where the waves had washed it up there. And they looked at me like I was crazy when I asked them if they were going to vote.

They said, listen, we have spend every daylight hour trying to clean up around here. And you know, the presidential election will have to go on without us.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask about that because you are in a state that is expected to go for President Obama, just as other states are expected to go very heavily for Mitt Romney. Those people who do vote, do they feel that their vote is making a difference in any way today?

SMITH: I think that they feel that just showing up is making a difference. No, I mean President Obama is going to win this district. Talking to people that I've talked to, he's going to win this state fairly easily. There are some close local races, but people weren't out for that. They were just out to vote for the presidential race. They've been following it. They finally wanted to do it and they weren't going to let any sort of disaster stop them.

INSKEEP: And we should mention, for people who were not in swing states, that even though the popular vote is not decisive, we learn what it is - it matters. It is in that sense part of the results.

NPR's Robert Smith in New York City, thanks very much.

SMITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.