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Weymouth college student defies Sandy, cold bus to cast her first ballot

The driver of the 2 a.m. bus from South Station to Chinatown in New York swore to a shivering Maggie Holland that he had turned on the heat.

It sure did not feel like it. Holland briefly wished she had stayed back at her New York University dorm in her warm bed, getting enough rest for the four classes and midterm review that awaited her in a few hours Tuesday.

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She brushed those thoughts aside. The 21-year-old junior knew the sleep deprivation and chilly bus sojourn were worth it. After all, she had gotten to vote for the first time in her life — Hurricane Sandy be damned.

It was not easy.

An admitted procrastinator, Holland set her alarm Oct. 22 with the sole purpose of reminding herself that she needed to request an absentee ballot from the clerk in her hometown of Weymouth.

She filled out the form, scrounged up enough change to buy a stamp, and mailed the application. By Oct. 25, Holland’s absentee ballot was on its way to her Chinatown dorm.

So was Hurricane Sandy. The storm arrived a few days later. Forced to evacuate, Holland stayed with friends in the Bronx. Sandy’s fury halted everything, including mail service.

DETERMINED VOTER

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“In the back of my mind I thought, I hope I could get my ballot,” said Holland, who was a couple of months shy of being old enough to vote in 2008. “This was the first election I could vote in, and I wanted to be able to say I voted.”

Holland was allowed back in her dorm Sunday. She checked the mail. Nothing. Same thing Monday morning — one day until Election Day. By the time she got home at 8 p.m., the absentee ballot was waiting for her — too late to return it by mail.

“I felt at that point there was not much I could do,” Holland said. Then, she had an idea. “About 10 minutes later, I called my mom and asked if she could do the 1 a.m. pickup.”

By 9 p.m. Monday, Holland was on a bus to Boston. When she arrived at 1 a.m. Tuesday, her mother, Katie Holland, was waiting. The ballot was handed off, daughter to mother. By 2 a.m., Holland was back on the bus to New York. A few hours later, mom hand-delivered the ballot to Weymouth’s clerk.

“I couldn’t possibly discourage her,” Katie Holland said.

When Maggie’s grandmother, Ann Meaney, heard what her granddaughter had done, she was in disbelief. “I told her she was one awesome kid,” Meaney said. “I got nostalgic because my father would’ve loved that. He was a die-hard Democrat and we had it drilled to our heads, that nothing would keep him from voting.”

Had the absentee ballot not arrived in time, Holland was prepared to miss her classes Tuesday to vote in person.

“It was really important for me,” she said. “It’s something that’s so relatively easy — under most circumstances, without the hurricane.”

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.
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