The Immigrant Vote After Sandy

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Aaron Schachter: I'm Aaron Schachter, this is The World. The damage inflicted by Sandy on New York and New Jersey extends to the voting booth. Officials in both states are doing their best to make sure voters in areas affected by the storm can cast their ballots tomorrow. That includes connecting voting machines to generators, moving several polling stations to unaffected locations and in New Jersey, allowing people to vote via email. But for many still reeling from Sandy's aftermath, voting may not be the top priority. 29-year-old Ligia Soto was born in Guatemala and live in Mastic Beach, New York. Soto is a US citizen who works in the healthcare field. She says her decision to vote or not depends on her car and how much fuel is in the tank.

Ligia Soto: Here in Long Island, NY it's very difficult to obtain gas. I managed to go to different gas stations and they ran out of gas. Finally, last night after making two hours of a line I was able to get $30 of gas and that's when I said okay, I'm going to go vote. At first I wasn't sure if I was gonna be able to make it.

Schachter: So you can actually vote now?

Soto: Yes, I can. I can, yes. And I'm gonna pick up my mother and we're gonna go together.

Schachter: Now, I imagine you're one of the lucky ones. It must be hard for a lot of people to go vote.

Soto: It is. For instance, my father, he commutes about an hour for work and he actually mentioned to me yesterday that if he didn't find gas that most likely he wasn't gonna go vote.

Schachter: Have you heard that from a lot of people?

Soto: A couple friends in the area, due to the gas and you know, trying to save. For me it's actually to go to the voting poll is more likely on my way to work, about 2-3 miles from my house.

Schachter: This is a really interesting thought for those of us who haven't experienced a shortage like this. The decision making that you have to, you have to think about—do I have enough gas to get to work? Do I have enough gas to get to the poll? I mean I imagine there may be quite a few people who don't vote because they can't drive there.

Soto: Yeah, and the lines for obtaining gas when it's huge, it's like 3-4 blocks.

Schachter: And you have to come with cash?

Soto: Cash only, yeah.

Schachter: Is it possible in the neighborhoods there to walk to the polls?

Soto: It's not like it's on the way to work for most people, like I'm speaking on my town in Mastic Beach. We actually have to go look for the poll instead of the poll being on the way to work or on the way home.

Schachter: Right.

Soto: Before the storm I was so determined, I said I'm definitely gonna make my vote count, I'm going and I was excited about it. And then once we got the storm it was like hmm, do I really want to spend that gasoline on going to vote, you know, with the gas shortage here on Long Island.

Schachter: I do wonder if it's, living there in Long Island, if this is something that you notice is especially difficult for some of the newer immigrants to the United States. This kind of choice you have to make between getting to work in the car or getting to the polls.

Soto: It could possibly do with especially now to where the fall, most immigrants work in like agriculture or temporary work so that when it's raining or when the winter comes they don't have enough hours of work. For instance, my father will be one of them. He works in asphalt. This season he has left work and he has less money.

Schachter: He's from Guatemala too, yeah?

Soto: Yes, yeah.

Schachter: 29-year-old Ligia Soto was born in Guatemala and lives in Mastic Beach, NY. She finally has gasoline, congratulations, and is headed to the polls tomorrow. Ligia, thank you.

Soto: Thank you.