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Volunteers Rally To Help New Jersey Polling Location Damaged By Hurricane Sandy (PHOTOS)

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Volunteers from NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster cleaned up a Hoboken polling location, a community center that was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy.
Volunteers from NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster cleaned up a Hoboken polling location, a community center that was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

With Election Day 2012 looming, volunteers in New Jersey rallied to clean up a polling site damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

In Hoboken, N.J., a team of 20 volunteers for NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster worked to remove damaged furniture and equipment and clean up oily sediment from a multi-use community center flooded by the storm.

The center, a polling site that serves two precincts in downtown Hoboken, had power restored as of Monday morning and will be used on Election Day, Bill Driscoll Jr., the organization's director of operations and volunteerism told The Huffington Post in a phone interview.

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"The response has been immense and volunteers have really been digging in," Driscoll said. "We've been joking, calling ourselves 'Defenders of Democracy.'"

Driscoll, who traveled from Massachusetts to help in the relief effort, said that volunteers have come from as far away as Minnesota to help out at the polling place, as well as at two other clean-up sites managed by the organization: a synagogue and a food pantry, both in Hoboken.

NECHAMA provided on-site leadership, safety training and equipment -- including gloves, respirators, eyewear and tyvek suits -- to volunteers, Driscoll said. The organization also provided lodging and meals to volunteers that have traveled to help.

While sediment laden with oil, possibly from cars that were wrecked by the floods that inundated parts of Hoboken last week, covered the sidewalk outside the center and some of its floors, Driscoll said that no heavy duty equipment had to be deployed in the polling location clean up.

"With disaster work, there is always risk," he said.

NECHAMA's efforts are among many volunteer projects in New York and New Jersey that have emerged in the wake of the devastating superstorm, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people and is thought to have knocked out power for more than 8 million customers.

State and local governments have scrambled to accommodate voters for Tuesday's election. In New York City, 59 polling places that are without power or suffered severe damage due to the storm were moved, The Daily News reported. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg was skeptical of the plan's efficacy, saying he had "absolutely no idea" if it would succeed.

New Jersey is allowing residents affected by the storm to vote via email or fax, and the state is using military trucks to replace damaged polling places. Electronic voting is already open to overseas New Jersey residents and those in the military.

About 30 million people in 34 states and the District of Columbia have already cast their ballots through early voting, according to the Associated Press.

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