By Lauren Wanko
NJTV received a rare opportunity to travel along with the Ocean County Board of Elections throughout Seaside Heights and Ortley Beach on election day. The Ocean County Board of Elections mobile voting bus was in action to reach folks like first responders, emergency personnel and other elected officials who couldn’t leave areas that were evacuated.
“It was important to vote today. Glad that the county came and brought this out for us or we wouldn’t be able to vote,” Seaside Heights Police Officer Todd Genty said.
“You gotta do your duty you know. American citizen, we all gotta vote no matter what,” said Patrol Officer David Rodriguez.
This is the first time Ocean County has used a mobile voting bus. Inside there’s room for a number of voters to fill out their ballots. Generic provisional ballots were created for this election. It’s the only method used on the bus. Voters could write the names of their picks for candidates on a local level at the bottom of the ballot.
“My expectations are that we’ve done everything we possibly could to afford every voter the right to cast a vote if they want to in this election and we’re hoping to hit the low 70 percent on turnout,” said Ocean County Board of Elections Chairman George Gilmore.
The bus made a number of stops throughout the county, including a high school that was transformed into a shelter after the storm. Seaside Heights resident Gary Braine says despite the flood damage in his home, voting is a priority.
“I vote every year and the reason why I vote is I want to select the president that is going to do good for this country,” Braine said.
It’s a sentiment shared by many local residents who are desperately hoping for help from the government after Sandy completely devastated communities like Ortley Beach. Homes were ripped from their foundations. One entire neighborhood was wiped out, living rooms sit exposed to the beachfront, much of the furniture still in place. Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher says the Ocean County Board of Elections has done everything possible for residents to cast their vote.
“The people have been so distracted, they’ve been displaced or without a home, without power. It’s difficult to remember to some extent that today is election day,” Kelaher said.
“I don’t think you can blame anyone who just suffered a loss of losing their home and everything else they own from having other priorities,” Gilmore said. “Taking this mobile unit around, we had people who would have had no other chance to vote thank us very much because they wanted the opportunity to cast a vote,” Gilmore said.
During the hour the bus was stationed in Seaside Heights, 50 people cast their vote. Gilmore says that demonstrates the true American spirit.