Despite Long Island still feeling the lingering effects of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy last week, residents both from Massapequa and beyond turned out in droves Tuesday to cast their votes for president and other local offices.
Due to damaged incurred by Hurricane Sandy, polling locations originally slated to be at Raymond J. Lockhart School were moved to the Ames Campus of Massapequa High School. Matt Fernando, the Poll Coordinator at the Ames Campus, said that this was easily the biggest response to any election he’s ever worked.
“Turnout’s been pretty high,” he said. “This is the first Presidential Election that I’ve worked, but I’ve done every election for the past four years, and this has been...crazy. It’s the most crowded.”
Fernando estimated that, as of 1:30 p.m. that day, the polling location at the Ames Campus has already seen over 1,400 people, all weighing on the hotly-contested Presidential battle between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The high numbers were bolstered in part by voters from other districts, Fernando said.
“We’ve actually had a lot of displaced voters,” he said. “We have voters who are registered to vote at, say Long Beach, that are unable to vote there and are staying with a friend, so they come here.“
Many Massapequa residents also stopped down at Ames to cast their ballots as well, including Donald Whearty, who wasn’t about to let a little thing like the aftermath of a hurricane get in the way.
“I’m one of the lucky ones here in Massapequa...I never lost my power. But I intended on voting no matter what,” he said. “The hurricane wasn’t going to make a difference...unless it wasn’t open, I was going to come here and vote. I would have walked if I had to.”
Whearty said that the main issue that shaped his vote in this election is one that concerns many in the nation- the economy and its slow recovery. But one problem leftover from Hurricane Sandy is currently concerning him almost as much.
“The thing that really bothers me are the gas lines,” he said. “They keep saying it’s going to get better, but it’s not. I’ve seen more gas stations closed today then there were a week ago. I’m a school teacher, and I’m back at work now, and this is making it very difficult.”
Jim Smith, who was without power for four days after the hurricane, felt that today was a perfect day to get out, get some fresh air, and cast his ballot.
“It’s a beautiful day...it’s nice and warm, the sun is out...it’s a great day to get out there and vote,” he said. “I feel sorry for other people who are in other voting districts who still don’t have their electricity and are having problems getting out there to vote.”
When it came to which issues were directing his voting, Smith made it abundantly clear that the economy was first and foremost on his mind.
Hugh Blanso, another Massapequa resident, also showed up at Ames to vote not only to exercise his right to do so, but to also help get past Hurricane Sandy’s unwelcome visit.
“We actually never lost our power with the storm...we kept everything. But we were out last year with Irene, so this made up for it,” he said. “But getting out and voting today is just helping in getting everything feeling back to normal after dealing with the storm, you know?”
The Ames Campus opened their doors to voters at 6 a.m. that morning, and will close them at 9 p.m. this evening.