SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. - In an unheated municipal hall on sea-washed Long Beach Island on Tuesday, a long line of exhausted, unbated, hungry voters who said they felt like captives in their hometown embodied the most eloquent and famous lines from "The New Colossus":
"Give me your tired, your poor,
"Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
"The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."
Afraid to cross the bridge to "civilization" in neighboring Stafford Township - even to replenish dwindling food supplies or use a friend's shower - because officials would not let them return to the island, they came to vote as they were.
A motley crew in fishing waders, pajama bottoms, and raggedy jeans, they stood proudly in muck-covered boots and disheveled jackets. They wore hats to cover up their "bad hair week."
They were exhausted. And cold.
Some welcomed a chance to get away from the lonesome tedium of a house with no electrical power or phone service. Some relished a short break from trying to reclaim their normal lives from a storm so infamous it needs to be identified only by a single word on official documents such as provisional ballots: Sandy.
Thanks to a special order signed by Gov. Christie, they could have voted in other ways: by e-mail or fax.
But casting a ballot in person seemed important to these voters, who had looked Sandy in the face and survived with a litany of stories to share.
"I really wanted to come here today, to do my civic duty, to be a part of it all," said Nancy Spark, a Barnegat Light resident for 31 years who had not left her home since the storm.
Voting became a reunion of sorts. Friends and neighbors greeted one another, hugged, and reported how they had survived the raging storm and what they had lost.
"You stay?" was the question most asked. "Yeah . . . but never again" was often the answer.
Hot coffee and fresh doughnuts - brought over from the mainland by poll workers and replenished all day - were a novelty for voters, who also were directed to a small buffet of pasta and meatballs.
A church donated cases of bottled water and boxes of fresh fruit, free for the taking.
Voter turnout seemed heavy in this Ocean County municipality that serves as a gateway community to Long Beach Island, poll workers said, even amid a level of devastation that is keeping residents who evacuated before the storm from returning permanently to their homes.
Homes and businesses were flooded and pulled from foundations by the force of the waves and tides when the storm hit Oct. 29. Streets are swathed in a deep cover of muck and sand, and hundreds of boats were pulled from their moorings and run aground on shoals and marshlands. Many areas are still without power or water. Officials say it could take months before the place is fully operational.
Long Beach Island's intrepid holdouts were given a singular polling place - Ship Bottom's municipal building - where they could cast provisional, or paper, ballots on Tuesday.
Colleen Bradley, a master poll worker for the Ocean County Board of Elections, said voters seemed enthusiastic - and grateful - that they had a place to vote despite the catastrophic condition of much of the island.
"I would have swum here if I had to," said Kathleen Kampert, who said she voted for President Obama.
Equally staunch about getting to the polling place were Kevin and Lara Sparks, restaurant owners from Brant Beach, who had cast their votes for Mitt Romney.
"We have no water in our home and haven't showered for a week, but it was definitely a priority for us to get here no matter what," Lara Sparks said.
Both the Sparkses and Kampert were among those who rode out the storm but are now afraid to leave the island because no one has said when they would be allowed to return. Residents able to show proper identification were allowed over the bridge for a brief visit on Monday to survey the damage. Everyone was ordered out at 6 p.m. Monday and had not been allowed to return.
Officials said it was unclear how many of Long Beach Island's 8,500 year-around residents, who live primarily in six separate municipalities, rode out the storm. They were unsure how many would be likely to vote at the provisional polling place.
Ballots cast there will be hand-tallied in three separate counts, Bradley said.
Voters who had temporarily relocated off the island also could vote at a special polling place set up at the Stafford Township Middle School, where all of the voting machines that are normally brought to Long Beach Island had been relocated.
"I'm here to do my civic duty. . . . I wouldn't have missed it," said Maurice Logue, 62, a Vietnam vet from Surf City, who, with his wife, Mary Ellen, had relocated to his sister-in-law's mainland home.
After the storm, one of the things that weighed most heavily on Logue's mind was where he could vote - and that his vote would count, he said.
That was the sentiment elsewhere at the Shore.
In hard-hit Ventnor, six polling districts were combined into one site at the Ventnor Community Center, a spot that just days ago served as a hurricane relief center.
"You can't believe how many haven't seen each other," said Joseph Marrone, a poll worker. "They were hugging each other."
Marrone said turnout was heavy, probably because of the presidential election, despite so many people without power and the backbreaking burden of rebuilding their homes on their minds. Some people arriving were casino workers who had been told not to report for their jobs because of the nearly empty casinos, placing unemployment on their list of worries, along with ruined homes.
"We had people in here still without heat," Marrone said. "They're freezing. But you're dealing with mature people here. They take voting seriously."
Watch video from the combined polling place in Ship Bottom:
Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg contributed to this article.