Election 2012: Local voting 'smooth and very steady'

Melissa Salgado, 23, of West Nyack, votes at

Melissa Salgado, 23, of West Nyack, votes at Nyack Elementary school in Nyack. (Nov. 6, 2012) (Credit: Faye Murman)

Lack of power and gas didn't keep Hudson Valley voters from heading to the polls.

For all the concerns about electricity and readiness heading into Tuesday's election, election commissioners throughout the Hudson Valley reported heavy turnout and few problems.

"Considering everything that we've been through, it's going smooth," said Doug Colety, Westchester County's Republican elections commissioner.


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At the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains Tuesday night, Westchester County's Republican elite were starting to gather for a party featuring candidates in several local races, including 37th District Senate candidate Bob Cohen, who is running a close race against Democrat George Latimer.

Supporters milled around, sipping wine and munching on gourmet sandwiches, and the mood was optimistic, both for the presidential race and other contests down the ballot.

"We're going to take the White House and the Senate," said Michael Pap, 29, a Republican from Eastchester. "I'm really confident about our chances."

Rockland County Democrats were staging a party at the Town and Country catering hall.

"I think it's going to be a great night for Democrats in Rockland County," said Kristen Stavisky, president of the Rockland County Democratic Party. "I've been to polling spots all day. It's been a great voter turnout. Some places were running out of ballots. We had to rush ballots over ... In some districts we were at 70 to 80 percent of our numbers from the 2008 election at 5 p.m., which was great, with a few hours of voting to go."

However, results from Rockland County were trickling in slowly Tuesday night. Anne Marie Kelly, a county elections commissioner, said results were still coming in, and elections officials were dealing with an uploading bottleneck on their public server.

"The slowness could be Sandy-related or it could be many people logging onto the website to check results," Kelly said.

In Yorktown on Tuesday morning, election inspectors arrived at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to discover that -- despite Con Ed's assurances -- power had not been restored to the Route 134 polling place, said Town Clerk Alice Roker.

Voters were told they could either vote by the affidavit ballots created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Monday executive order or they could go home and have election workers call them when power was restored. Some took ballots and others came back later, Roker said.

By 2 p.m., power was back.

Two polling places in Ossining also were without power for the scheduled 6 a.m. opening, according to the state Board of Elections. It was unclear whether power had been restored as of Tuesday evening.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino told News12 that only one of 380 polling locations in the county had to be moved. "It was just a typical Election Day," he said. "Very successful."

In White Plains, a steady stream of voters shuffled in and out of the Mamaroneck Avenue School on Tuesday afternoon. Michelle Clark, a poll worker, said turnout had improved ninefold compared with this year's primaries.

"A lot more people are coming out to vote, despite the storm and what's going on," Clark said.

More than an hour before polls closed, Reginald Lafayette, Westchester County's Democratic elections commissioner, predicted a turnout of 60 percent or more. If Lafayette's prediction holds, turnout could equal or exceed 2008's national election, when more than 59 percent of Westchester County's eligible voters showed up at the polls.

Colety said he believed turnout would easily top 60 percent. Only a "handful" of polling sites in Westchester County were depending on power generators, he said.

NATIONAL GUARD TO THE RESCUE

The commissioner of Rockland County's Board of Elections, Louis Babcock, called in the Army National Guard when voters showed up at two school polling sites -- Hempstead Elementary School in Spring Valley and Grandview Elementary in Monsey -- that still did not have power. The Guard came to the rescue, bringing in generators to power voting machines as well as extra heaters and lights.

"They've been a tremendous asset having them around," Babcock said.

Some Rockland residents left homeless by Sandy cast their ballots at the New City Library, even though they do not live in the library's district. Cuomo issued an order permitting people displaced from Hurricane Sandy to vote where they're presently residing.

At a news conference Tuesday, the governor urged residents to "go vote. This is important ... who's in charge matters."

Orange County Elections Commissioner Susan Bahren said there was confusion from voters over Cuomo's executive order allowing voters displaced by the storm to cast affidavit ballots at any polling site. Unlike Westchester and Rockland counties, Orange County wasn't declared a federal disaster area, and Bahren said some people who are helping relatives in Nassau County have tried to vote there instead of Orange County, which Cuomo's order doesn't permit.

"There's a lot of people who weren't affected by the storms who think they can vote anywhere," she said.

She said about 20 voters from affected areas and displaced by the storm who are staying with relatives in Orange County have voted with affidavit ballots, per Cuomo's eased voting regulations.

Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight reported "no major problems" in voting regarding Cuomo's order and heavy turnout. "We've had a couple calls, but no problems," he said.

At the New City Elementary School, the gymnasium was transformed into a makeshift polling site to accommodate people who normally vote at Wood Glen Elementary, which was severely damaged by the hurricane.

Despite the glitches, longtime poll inspectors told Roker that they had "never seen it (voter turnout) this heavy, even in a presidential election."

In West Nyack's District 3, 245 voters -- half the district's total registered voters -- had cast a ballot at West Nyack Elementary School by 5 p.m. In District 34 in West Nyack, 450 of the district's 800 registered voters had been to the polls, workers there said.

"It's been smooth and very steady since we opened," said Maria Rossi, an elections worker since 2003.

JOBS, ECONOMY GET VOTERS OUT

Voters said the two issues that had taken center stage on the presidential campaign trail -- jobs and the economy -- got them to the polls, no matter what storm-related issues they were contending with.

The neck-and-neck race between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney split states, regions and families and sometimes proved vexing for individual voters.

"My ideal would be in the middle of the two of them," said Andrea Juliano, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom from Piermont.

In the end, she said, her vote was going to Romney. "It's a tough call."

At the Piermont polling site, near where Hurricane Sandy caused some of the worst destruction in the Hudson Valley, voting went smoothly. The same was true throughout much of the region.

Across the river, at Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, Negra Gomez came out to support Obama for what she described as his more inclusive policies.

The 62-year-old state worker from Nyack said Obama won her support because "the middle is continuing to struggle, (and) the Republicans are for big banking and are not going to benefit the 99 percent."

The incumbent could have done more in his first term, she said, "but I think he was hindered by the Republicans' refusal to help him."

If Dixville Notch, N.H., is any indication, the presidential election could be a nail-biter. Voters in the tiny village, where polls opened at midnight, cast five votes for Obama and five for Romney.

LOCAL RACES, NATIONAL ISSUES

In one of the most hotly contested local races, 32-year-old Margaret Speedling of Newburgh said she was casting her ballot for incumbent U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth, a Republican who is trying to fight off the challenge of Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney in a contest to represent the 18th Congressional District.

"For me, it's more of looking into issues of women's choice and protecting life," she said of Hayworth's anti-abortion stance.

Speeding and another Newburgh resident, Jacqueline Ciccone, 66, both said they were voting for Romney in the general election.

"He's a true Republican conservative," Ciccone said of the former Massachusetts governor.

At the Meadow Hill Elementary School in the Town of Newburgh, social worker Patricia Lukaczyn and her husband, Peter Lukaczyn, a veteran and retiree, both 65, were voting the Democratic line, including Maloney.

"It's more voting against Nan Hayworth, who has done nothing, especially for veterans," Patricia Lukaczyn said.

In other key Hudson Valley races: Veteran Rep. Nita Lowey is seeking to fend off a bid by Republican Joe Carvin, Republican Bob Cohen is battling Democratic Assemb. George Latimer of Rye for the 37th State Senate District seat and Democrat Justin Wagner is seeking to oust incumbent Republican state Sen. Greg Ball in the 40th District.

Some were voting for the first time.

"It's really exciting," said Melissa Salgado, a 23-year-old native of Honduras who lives in West Nyack and studies at Rockland Community College. "I've been here for one year and I know it's so important to do it. I want to vote, and I want to be important, too."

With Betty Ming Liu, Sarah Armaghan, Kari Granville and Christian Wade

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