An American Red Cross disaster relief van dispensed hot meals, juice and milk outside Sacred Heart Parish in Island Park, where scores of people hardest hit by superstorm Sandy voted Tuesday afternoon.
Voters gathered in clusters around the parish auditorium, which also featured a basketball hoop, an elevated stage and a table stocked with supplies for Mass. An image of Jesus on a cross with an enlarged heart and another of him standing with outreached arms, also with an enlarged heart, greeted voters inside and outside the auditorium.
Al and Karen Carford walked a mile from Harbor Isle to make it to the lone polling site in Island Park.
Their home took on 4 to 6 feet of water. The boiler, couch, cabinets, a music collection of records from the 1950s to the 1970s, and the couple’s two cars — destroyed.
Al Carford, 63, a hearing officer for social security disability claims, said he was compelled to show up at the polls by civic duty.
“People voted under a lot worse conditions,” he said. “Guys in combat vote.”
“He should be walking the boardwalk at Long Beach and the areas that have been damaged,” he said.
Carford said she was turned away from voting at first because she didn't have a driver's license with her, but finally was able to vote. She voted for Obama.
“He hasn’t been the cause of the problems, he inherited them,” she said. “Republicans haven’t helped him achieve his goals.”
“I really hate Romney, because the man is a liar,” she said.
Poll worker Chelsey Lindsay said that the polling site “actually got a lot of people.”
“Nobody has a car around here,” she said. “Everybody is walking, even elderly people.”
Those who did drive were often met by detours, especially on Long Beach Road.
The voting process also was temporarily hampered by generator-powered scanners that lost electricity for about an hour in the morning, Lindsay said.
Deicy Cerquin, of Island Park, who declined to give her age, came to the poll site with her 75-year-old mother, two of her own children and two others between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.
They had visited a site across from Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School first, which had a sign directing voters to the parish.
The group walked eight blocks. “We went out with the kids because to keep them at home, inside they get so bored, and it’s colder inside than outside,” she said.
Voting, she said, was mandatory in her home country of Peru. “Besides, we’re not doing anything at the house,” she said. “We feel patriotic. We have to do it so our votes count as an immigrant.”
Later, Cerquin said she voted a strictly Democratic ticket. She appreciated Obama’s Dream Act policy for undocumented immigrant children attending college, she said.
“My husband was in this country for 25 years and he just got his resident papers,” she said. “He couldn’t get a better job because of that.”
Debbie Gigante, a 52-year-old “domestic goddess” from Island Park, came to vote despite having 3 feet of water in her house.
“Everything is gone,” she said, adding that she copes without heat, gas or electricity by sitting near a fireplace and lighting candles.
“I’m a camper, we’ll get by,” she said. “We came to vote for Obama.”
Gigante said she voted for John McCain in the last presidential election because she was upset that Hillary Clinton was not the Democratic nominee.
She said she was not impressed by Mitt Romney. “I don’t trust the man,” she said. “He lost all my respect with the 47 percent comment.”
“He’s an elitist,” Gigante said of Romney. “I can’t stomach the guy.”