STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Superstorm Sandy's floodwaters drove Bob Mackie from his home on Long Beach Island, N.J., but nothing was going to stop him from voting Tuesday. The 72-year-old widower drove an hour each way to cast his ballot at a makeshift polling site for island residents, refusing to be disenfranchised by the devastation.

"A lot of people died for it, so we better exercise it," Mackie said of the right to vote.

A week after Sandy's ruinous march up the East Coast, thousands of displaced residents boarded shuttle buses and searched online for alternative polling places to cast their ballots. For millions who were still without power, cleaning mud out of their homes or living in shelters, voting represented both a return to normalcy and an act of defiance.

West Virginia resident Barbara Bolyard has been without power since the storm, relying on a coal-fired stove for heat and eating meals served by the Red Cross at local fire hall. But she and her three adult children still made it to their polling place in Newburg. "It's your right, do it," Bolyard said she told her kids.

National Guard units in West Virginia set up tents at three polling places and provided generators to help provide power to five other areas that had been buried under 2 feet of snow from Sandy.

In Connecticut, where all but two of the 773 voting precincts were open, voters displaced by the storm had to travel long distances to cast ballots in their precincts.

Jody Eisemann, who lost the first floor of her Fairfield, Conn., house to flooding, came home from the New York suburbs where she is staying with her brother to vote at her local polling site. Eisemann's neighborhood was still filled with downed trees, utility trucks and National Guard troops.

"It's a big pain in the neck," the 60-year old acupuncturist said.

In hard-hit New York and New Jersey, voting became an emotional mission for many.

Sarah Brewster of Long Beach, N.Y., sobbed as she emerged from her polling place in a school cafeteria. She said she had been overcome when she went inside to vote and saw the clocks all stopped at 7:27 – the time her community lost power on the evening of Oct. 29.

Voting is "part of our civic responsibility in the midst of all this crisis," said Brewster, a nonprofit worker.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, both signed directives allowing displaced residents of their states to cast provisional ballots at any polling site. Provisional ballots are counted once a voter's eligibility is confirmed.

After voting near his home in Mount Kisco, a New York city suburb, Cuomo told reporters it was essential to make balloting easier for those affected by storm.

"A lot of people are not at their home polling place – they've been displaced, they're staying with friends or their parents. We have first responders and volunteers who are not in their normal polling place, a lot of people from upstate who are helping in downstate New York," Cuomo said.

New Jersey also offered displaced residents the option of requesting a ballot via email and fax – the same procedure followed by the state's overseas residents and military personnel. County election offices were quickly swamped with requests for email ballots, prompting officials to announce they would give voters until Friday to cast ballots.

"It has become apparent that the county clerks are receiving applications at a rate that outpaces their capacity to process them without an extension of the current schedule," Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is also New Jersey's secretary of state, said in a directive issued Tuesday.

In Hudson County in northern New Jersey, officials received 4,000 email ballot requests by mid-afternoon. "It's a different kind of nuts," Deputy County Clerk Janet Larwa said.

Some in New Jersey said they weren't comfortable with the email option.

Pinky Milsen, a 62-year-old retired retail worker forced from her home on Long Beach Island, drove to a polling place on the mainland to cast a ballot for President Barack Obama.

"They said you could do it on the computer, but I said no, I want to push the lever. I want to make sure Obama wins," Milsen said.

In New York City, some polling places ran out of the affidavits due to heavy demand, said city Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez. The city printed up only 250 of the affidavits per election district and didn't have time to order extras, she said.

The storm came so close to the election that officials did not have enough time to educate poll workers about the change, which led to confusion, Vazquez said.

City Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco said lines were long even in areas of the city most disrupted by Sandy. Some voters in the Rockaways area of Queens cast ballots at a school where nine polling locations had been merged into one. Other voters in the Rockaways and one precinct in the Bronx were voting in tents powered by emergency generators.

Complicating matters further was the state's recent switch to electronic voting machines and the 2010 legislative redistricting that put many residents into new polling precincts.

"You couldn't pick a more perfect storm – a hurricane before a presidential election, a redistricting year, and new machines," Polanco said.

The efforts put a premium on creativity. At a public school in Staten Island's Midland Beach, flares were set up at an entrance to provide light, and voting machines were retrieved from the school and moved to tents where voters lined up in 29-degree temperatures.

Not everyone hurt by the storm saw voting as a priority.

New Jersey college student Cynthia Barreau was flooded out of her Toms River home and stood in a long line outside a FEMA processing center in Brick Township.

"I'm thinking a lot of people are not going to vote today; I just don't see it happening," she said. "We don't have homes. The last thing on our minds today is looking for a place to vote."

___

Fouhy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill and Wayne Parry in New Jersey, John Christoffersen in Connecticut, Vicki Smith in West Virginia, and Frank Eltman, Jim Fitzgerald and Christina Rexrode in New York contributed to this story.

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  • Bladimir Ostane

    Bladimir Ostane, right, fills out his ballot as voters crowd an apartment building hallway as they wait to enter a temporary polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of the Brooklyn borough of New York. The building is hosting a voting station for one that was closed due to Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • A man waiting to vote at Public School 370 angrily points at a New York City police officer, left, as tempers flare, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of the Brooklyn borough of New York. More than 100 voters waited in line as the polls were delayed in opening as Board of Election employees worked to set up voting scanners in the temporary location. The school is hosting seven temporary polling stations for stations that were closed due to Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Voters crowd an apartment building hallway as they wait to enter a temporary polling station, right, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York. The building is hosting a voting station that was closed due to Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Voters check in and cast their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. Voting in the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A line of voters wraps around corners of a corridor at Public School 370 , Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York. More than 100 voters waited in line as the polls were delayed in opening as Board of Election employees worked to set up voting scanners in the temporary location. The school is hosting seven polling stations that were closed due to Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • People line up to vote at Lindell School, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Long Beach, N.Y., one of several voting locations that was created as a result of Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

  • Two people fill out ballots against a wall as other voters crowd an apartment building hallway as they wait to enter a temporary polling station, center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York. Voting in the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Michael Bloomberg

    NewYork Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second left, waits in line to vote in New York on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Michael Bloomberg

    NewYork Mayor Michael Bloomberg, background center, waits in line to vote in a school on New York's Upper East Side, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Voters from a relocated polling site that closed after flooding from superstorm Sandy, wait to cast votes for national and local candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 at P.S. 188 on Manhattan's lower east side, New York. After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans are heading into polling places across the country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Voters arriving at a polling site read signs on a closed door about its relocation after flooding from Superstorm Sandy on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 at Bard High School on Manhattan's Lower East Side, New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Poll workers Eva Prenga, right, Roxanne Blancero, center, and Carole Sevchuk try to start an optical scanner voting machine in the cold and dark at a polling station in a tent in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, New York, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The original polling site, a school, was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • A voter threads between people waiting for their chance to cast their ballots at New York City Hall, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. After a year of campaigning, Americans across the United States are heading to the polls to decide the winner of the tight presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Wilfredo Machavelo

    Wilfredo Machavelo, 65, a retired chef originally from Puerto Rico, votes in a school on New York's Upper East Side, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Voters wait to cast a ballot at P.S. 29 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Voters wait for their chance to cast a ballot at P.S. 33 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Wilfredo Machavelo

    Wilfredo Machavelo, 65, a retired chef originally from Puerto Rico, votes in a school on New York's Upper East Side, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Nancy Padilla, 65, a Republican, and Migdalia Roman, 67, a Democrat, both originally from Puerto Rico, leave their polling place after voting on New York's Upper East Side, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Voters wait for their chance to cast a ballot at P.S. 29 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. After a year of campaigning, Americans across the United States are heading to the polls to decide the winner of the tight presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • A poll worker, far right, give instructions to voters arriving from a relocated polling site that closed after flooding from superstorm Sandy, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 at P.S. 188 on Manhattan's lower east side, New York. After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans are heading into polling places across the country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Voters wait for their chance to cast a ballot at P.S. 33 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. After a year of campaigning, Americans across the United States are heading to the polls to decide the winner of the tight presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Voters wait to cast a ballot at P.S. 33 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in New York. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

  • Voters wait in a long line to cast their ballots at Far Rockaway High School on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans are heading into polling places across the country.(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Poll station worker Emily Brown directs voters from a relocated polling site, as they arrive to cast votes for national and local candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 at the Asser Levy Recreational Center on Manhattan's east side, New York. After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans head into polling places across the country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

  • Voters check in before casting their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Voters wait in line to cast their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Voters wait in line to cast their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A sign directs people to a polling site in a school that is also serving as a donation site for victims of Superstorm Sandy in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, New York, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

  • William Spade fills out his ballot at a polling site in a tent in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, New York, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The original polling site, a school, was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)