The League of Women Voters of New Jersey has produced a documentary called “Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election.” The film tells the story of the extraordinary efforts of advocates, government officials, and an energized and motivated public working together following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to ensure citizens displaced or disrupted by the storm were able to exercise their right to vote.
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey with an incredible force. By the next morning, one week before the election, millions of New Jersey residents were without power, displaced from their homes, and overwhelmed by the storm. Some 800 polling places throughout the state were without power.
“We never faced a situation like that before,” said Kerry Butch, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “Election officials were without power, new directives were being issued from the state almost daily, and our voter hotline was ringing off the hook with voters concerned about not being able to cast a ballot on Election Day. We knew it was important to document.”
Award winning filmmaker Christina Eliopoulos interviews policy experts from the ACLU-NJ, Disability Rights New Jersey, The Hall Institute for Public Policy, the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Dramatic news footage and videos from citizen journalists are combined with candid interviews with voters from across the state.
The organizations featured in the film tell the stories of hundreds of thousands of people assisted in the aftermath of the storm.
“More than 13,000 New Jersey residents called the Election Protection national hotline for assistance in the aftermath of Sandy,” said Catherine Weiss, chair of the Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler, which ran the hotline covering New Jersey. “Their determination to vote even while thousands were displaced from their homes set a model for all citizens to follow.”
“In the days after Sandy, the ACLU-NJ’s office was inundated with calls from residents who were determined to vote, even though they had been displaced and their lives thrown into chaos,” said Alexander Shalom, senior staff attorney. “This film shows the extraordinary efforts that public officials and citizens took – amid flooded streets and flattened homes — to preserve democracy.”
“Disability Rights New Jersey through this film produced by League of Women Voters, highlights the additional struggles and barriers of individuals with disabilities, an already underrepresented voting group, in their efforts to obtain access to the vote following the storm” said Mary Ciccone, Disability Rights New Jersey’s managing attorney.
Election officials from Hoboken and Ocean County, two areas hard-hit by the storm, are also featured in the film.
“The League of Women Voters did an exceptional job producing a documentary that captured the emotional and devastating impact that Sandy had on our County as well as showcasing the great spirit of our residents to cast their votes despite the obstacles faced after the storm,” said Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella.
A number of screenings and panel discussions are scheduled to coincide with the one year anniversary of the storm and can be found on the League’s website, http://www.lwvnj.org.
“There was no dress rehearsal for this situation and election officials had to think quickly,” said Butch. “Watching this documentary a year after the storm, I am still amazed by the resiliency, passion, and dedication of our residents, officials, and organizations.”
The League of Women Voters of New Jersey has created a community discussion guide, available at http://www.lwvnj.org, which is useful to groups and organizations wishing to arrange screenings and lead discussions. It is also particularly useful to teachers that wish to screen the film in the classroom. If you are interested in holding a screening, please contact the League of Women Voters of New Jersey at 609-394-3303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.