First-Time and Tested Voters Hit the Polls in East Hampton

Woes from Sandy didn't keep voters from casting their ballots.

In the Town of East Hampton, it doesn't appear as Hurricane Sandy dampened the voting process, particularly for the those casting ballots for the first time.

Paulina Gauger wore a big smile at the Springs Fire Department, where she voted for the first time in the United States. A native of Ecuador, she became an American citizen last year.

"I feel like a dream came true," said Gauger, a mother to three, ages 22, 16, and 10. "Now, I feel like more apart of this country."

She emigrated more than seven years ago with a visa, living in Hampton Bays for a time before moving to Springs with her husband and children. She became a citizen in May 2011. "As soon as I could register, I did. When I got my registration card, I was so happy I put it on the fridge," she said. "I can't wait to tell my friends in Ecuador or put it on Facebook and say, "I voted!"

Gauger said she supported President Obama, and locally, Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton. A Democrat, she voted across the party line.

"I feel like you are a part of this country because you are part of the history now. Every election is a part of the history," she said. "Maybe he is going to win, maybe he is not, I don't know, but you are a part of the process and that's a big accomplishment. "

Gauger, who is taking pre-requisite classes at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead to become a nurse, was also working as an inspector at the Springs polling place on Election Day. She was there since 5 a.m.

She said the whole experience has been exciting. In fact, she said she could hardly sleep last night — but she was also pumped about a 95 she got in an anatomy and physiology class.

"I was so happy, plus this, yesterday I got home and my husband said, 'What's with you? You have a boyfriend or something?,'" she said laughing.

Russ Calemmo, who was working with Gauger as an inspector, has been voting for a while, though was on edge about the election as well: "I'm excited and I've been around since Eisenhower," he said. For him, it's so exciting because he thinks the presidential election is going to be very close.

Some weren't as convinced the presidential race will be neck-and-neck. Carole Campolo, a member of the East Hampton Republican Committee, said, "Romney will win. I'm hoping Randy Altschuler wins. I think Randy's race will be close," she said of his second race against Bishop. During the 2010 race, it was weeks before Bishop was declared the winner.

Campolo's husband is hopeful Altschuler will put out the win because some only vote every four years. "I think because this is a presidential year, a lot more is going to come out and vote."

The good news, Calemmo said, for district 9, 15 and 17, is: "The people are coming out. I think the weather probably is a great contributor, especially with the senior citizens, because if it was raining, you wouldn't see people in wheelchairs. Even though there's gas problems, they're coming out and they're doing their duty."

At the East Hampton High School, where voters in districts 1 and 14 were flowing in all day, The Rev. Dr. Connie Jones said she was confident President Obama would win re-election. "I'm going to Obama because of Social Security. The Rev. Al Sharpton said, 'It's not about me, it's about your mama.'"

An Independence party member, Afton DiSunno, of East Hampton said she was supporting the president and Bishop, and was concerned about low voter turnout due to the storm. When she went to cast her vote, she said, "I was mostly just thinking about the importance of getting here today and all the poor people in New York City who don't have such an organized place to vote, like they do out here, and don't know where they're voting today."

Rona Klopman, an Amagansett resident and member of the East Hampton Democratic Committee who was collecting information from poll watchers, said turnout looks good despite the difficulties of the past week since Sandy arrived in New York and the gas shortage. "When I voted it was 11 in the morning; 500 people voted already at the Amagansett firehouse."

Also, she has been working the phones for Bishop and getting positive feedback. "We were calling all over Suffolk. I think it's looking pretty good, but it's going to be tight" in the race against Randy Altschuler.

Kristy LaMonda November 06, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Great job Paulina!! You are such a hard worker!


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