Election Day snapshots
UPDATED: Attitudes, atmospheres vary around the United States
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Editor’s Note: Several WORLD reporters on Election Day talked to voters and observed different communities around the country before returns started coming in.
D.C. ready for demonstrations
WASHINGTON—Tuesday morning dawned bright and crisp in the nation’s capital. But on the eve of this year’s contentious Election Day, the stately city of marble and stone had become a city of plywood, chain-link fencing, and caution tape.
On Monday evening, construction crews erected additional security fencing around the White House. The barriers are in addition to a layer of fencing that crews installed downtown after protests this summer following the death of George Floyd.
Despite taking criticism for holding in-person events that led to some COVID-19 cases during Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation process, President Donald Trump planned to host an election night party at the White House.
Meanwhile, D.C. residents and others also made plans to attend mass gatherings. The political demonstration group ShutDownDC planned an eight-hour rally at Black Lives Matter plaza, near the White House, on election night. The plans included a Jumbotron broadcasting election results and DJs, dance performances, bands, and speeches. The group also announced plans to demonstrate throughout the rest of the week with other groups. ShutDown DC said its demonstrations would “disrupt business as usual for some of the intuitions that are most complicit in Trump’s attack on Democracy.”
Anticipation built in the city throughout Election Day morning. Some construction crews measured windows and doors to cover with plywood. One three-man crew outside the Mexican Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue said they thought the process would take about an hour.
Then the boarded-up building would match the rest of the street. A nearby CVS pharmacy, also on Pennsylvania Avenue, was boarded up. But a steady stream of customers filed in through its propped doors. One worker, Gianni Segears, came to her 8 a.m. shift after getting up early to vote. The CVS has been boarded up since before after the George Floyd protests. She predicted that if Trump wins reelection, “It’s going to become a whole riot.”
A few blocks from the White House, Capitol Hill seemed relatively normal, with a mix of some businesses boarded up and others open as usual.
Sally King, the general manager at Union Kitchen Grocery, a small business in a residential neighborhood, said she didn’t plan to put up plywood or work shorter hours.
“I don’t expect anything untoward to happen, but we do have boards being delivered,” she said. “We’re just going to have them at the ready. I’m not keen on putting them up because I don’t think it’s a good look. I also don’t think we’re going to see anything.”
She said throughout protests in the summer, the business “[served] a lot of people going to the protests,” but never had any trouble with the rioting faction of protests.
“Seems like the more corporate type, like Whole Foods. … I think bigger people with bigger policies have more to worry about than the little guy in the neighborhood,” King said. “I see a lot of people in a very upbeat mood today just wanting this to be over with.”—by Harvest Prude
Some rural voters may surprise pundits
DENTVILLE, Miss.—Since 1976, Mississippi and its six Electoral College votes have been sure wins for Republican presidential candidates. But some pockets pack surprises.
Copiah County went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One of Copiah’s most rural precincts is Dentville, where heavy voter turnout isn’t a threat at the fire station polling center. Most voters Tuesday found three lanes open, no waiting. Still, Paula Smith came prepared for complications because of a move.
“I brought my registration paperwork in case there was a problem,” she said. “I believe people who complain about voter ID have something to hide.”
Smith, the mother of two teens, returned to the community to care for her aging parents. In the last presidential election, she brought her mother to the Dentville precinct where she had voted for 40 years.
“Mom loved Trump. We took a picture of her voting and sent it to him,” Smith laughed.
But Smith doesn’t laugh about the problems she believes the country is facing. “Abortion, how we treat our elderly. It’s unacceptable. God would not approve killing a baby up to birth.”
Across the county, the scene is different, though still rural. A line of voters stretches through a gravel parking lot at the Centerpoint precinct. There, Henry Smylie has about a half-hour wait. He’s been confined to a wheelchair for 32 years because of a sawmill injury, but he has never missed a vote: “I want to see a change in Washington. Jobs. Teacher pay. Police pay.”
Nearby, Rochelle Hendrix and her brother, Melvin Hendrix, expressed concern about healthcare. Rochelle says politicians want to abandon Obamacare, but they don’t have a plan to replace it. Melvin, 36 and unemployed, worries about getting sick.
New voter Micah Jones, 20, was glad he didn’t vote early. As a history major, he’s interested in politics, and he enjoyed watching rallies Monday night. “I like to see what they have to say all the way to the very end.”—by Kim Henderson
Ohio tilting blue?
MENTOR, Ohio—“We’re a little worried today,” said Lake County, Ohio, resident Daniel Crowder.
A little before 8 a.m. on Election Day, he was standing by the exit of Mentor Baptist Church in Mentor, wearing a sign around his neck that said “Text BALLOT to 79229 to get your Lake County Democratic sample ballot.”
Crowder, president of Lake County Young Democrats, was worried about the county’s undecided voters. He hadn’t seen clear data on which way they would fall—leaving an Ohio victory for either candidate far from guaranteed.
He had arrived to vote at the church early Tuesday morning. After casting his ballot, he grabbed the sign from his car and stood by the red brick building in the crisp, sunny fall weather. He offered paper copies of the sample ballot to a steady stream of voters driving into the parking lot, then walked to the church. Most turned him down—politely. Crowder, a self-employed public relations consultant, said he planned to stay until around 8:30 a.m. before heading to another polling location in Painesville Township.
Ohio, a swing state, is crucial for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Not a single Republican candidate has won the U.S. presidency without also winning Ohio, and of the 39 presidential elections since 1860, Ohio accurately predicted the winning candidate 35 times. Political analysts say the results of the 2020 election will depend largely on how counties like Lake County vote.
Lake County is just east of the consistently blue Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland. Lake County—older, less racially diverse, and heavy with manufacturing jobs—was overwhelmingly red in 2016, when Trump took all but seven of Ohio’s 88 counties. But it’s not guaranteed to stay red. Northeast Ohio counties have flip-flopped depending on the candidate, and eight of the nine Ohio counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 are Lake County neighbors. In 2012, Lake County voters slightly favored Romney, but in 2008 they favored Obama.
Some evidence suggests the region is shifting blue this year: Polling data from the summer showed Biden leading among registered voters in northeast Ohio. On Tuesday morning, multiple voters I spoke to at the polls in Lake County also expressed frustration with Trump’s divisive personality.
“Trump has done nothing to bring us together. Zero. Zilch,” said Garrett Schillaci, a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair who said he was a registered Republican and works at a business consulting firm. Schillaci, who voted for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, said he was voting against Trump for the second time.
“I feel Trump is a menace,” he said. “I probably agree with more of his policies than I do with Biden, but I don’t feel that Biden is as bad of a human being as Donald Trump.” Schillaci said he’s “fed up” with the division in the country and wishes Trump would use the coronavirus to bring the kind of unity the country experienced after 9/11.
But Renee Monaco, a retired banker and a Trump voter, said she’s pleased with Trump and his leadership as a businessman. “America is a business. He’s here to make money for America, and I think that’s what he’s doing.” She named healthcare as her single disappointment in Trump—not because she wants a bigger healthcare program but because she hoped he would get rid of Obamacare: “But I don’t think that was his fault because there was too much pushback, from what I understand.” She doesn’t believe Biden is fit for office, and she noted his age. “Not to make fun of him, but he’s not all there,” said Monaco.
Other Biden voters on Tuesday were less concerned about Biden’s mental fitness than about Trump’s character. Partners Jessica Armstrong and Edward Glinka, both in their late 20s, weighed the downsides. “Ideally our president candidates wouldn’t be this old,” said Armstrong from behind a pink mask. She called Biden’s age “a little concerning,” but said she’d prefer him in office since Trump is “the biggest bully.” Glinka added, “I think it boils down to empathy for me. I just don’t think that Trump possesses any empathy. ... He’s borderline narcissist.”
A sense of Trump’s narcissism caused Charlene Power to change her vote. She’s in her mid-50s and voted for Trump in 2016 because she hoped his business background would help the country. But Biden got her vote this year. She thinks Trump’s self-focused rhetoric has distracted from solutions that could unite the country. “It seems like we’ve been in such a flux of anxiety the past four years,” she said. “I just feel we need a little bit more stability and grandfathering to get us through these next four years. And I think [Biden] can bring that in.”
Later in the morning, Crowder posted an update to Facebook that sounded significantly less worried than he had been earlier: “The amount of ‘former Republicans’ that came over and talked to me after they voted is astounding.”—by Leah Hickman
Counting votes in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS—About 40 people wearing winter coats, tasseled hats, and gloves waited in line for polls to open at Central Gym Park Recreation Center on Tuesday morning. A couple of miles away, a similar number stood in front of Phillips Community Center.
These two voting locations embrace the four Minneapolis precincts hit hardest by rioting this summer after George Floyd’s death in May just a few blocks away.
This morning all was calm. Skies were blue. Minnesota’s fickle temperatures were headed toward the 60s.
According to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, over half of the more than 3.5 million registered voters in Minnesota voted before Election Day. That’s about 62 percent of the total turnout for the 2016 presidential election. Of the more than 2 million absentee ballots Minnesotans have requested this year, officials have accepted more than 1.8 million so far, a state record.
A disproportionate number of absentee ballots are from Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the biggest Democratic strongholds in the state. Minneapolis is in Hennepin County: Of about 272,000 registered Minneapolis voters, about 160,000 absentee votes had been accepted as of Monday.
Even with record-high absentee voting, a steady stream of citizens entered the polling places all morning.
The first woman to cast her ballot at Central, Lucretia Atkins, 57, told me she’s never missed an opportunity to vote: “I have to give my input to get my desired output.” She voted strictly Democratic.
Catrina Blair, 46, said: “I have a brown son, and if I don’t advocate for him, who will?” She later brought her 9-year-old son, Tracey, back to say hello. She wants him to know how important voting is. She, too, voted Democratic.
Len Mathe, a 74-year-old Vietnam vet, was eager to talk, saying he voted for Trump and shared a birthday with the president. But he qualified his statement: “I don’t like either candidate.” He wants term limits and age limits, believing both candidates are too old. He was especially concerned about Joe Biden’s mental capacity. He was worried about the Senate race, too, and voted for Republican Jason Lewis.
Mathe, who moved to Minneapolis from the suburbs seven years ago, said he loves the city but was saddened it was Minneapolis that lit a fuse, leading the country down a violent road. He wants the city to lead without the vitriol: “We have great people in our city. We each need to do our part. It’s up to the people, not any president.”
Known historically for high voter rates, Minnesota had the highest turnout in the nation in 2016 with 75 percent of eligible voters participating. Minnesota has voted Democratic in most presidential elections. Not since 1972, when Richard Nixon defeated Democrat George McGovern, has Minnesota gone Republican. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by fewer than 45,000 votes.
President Trump held four campaign rallies in Minnesota this year, hoping to turn the state red and gain 10 Electoral College votes. Biden campaigned here twice.
At the Phillips location, Adam Ugas, 38, said he’s a Muslim and voted for Biden. He doesn’t think people of his religion are safe with Trump as president. Amy Wanggaard, 36, holding the hand of 7-year-old daughter Hattie, said she voted Democratic because of racial unrest and the southern border camps that separate families.
Stephen Clayton, 25, came out of the polls smiling. He said he voted straight Republican and loves that Trump is pro-life. He moved to Minnesota from Georgia this year just after the rioting and in the middle of the pandemic. He’s a seminary student at Bethlehem College and Seminary.
In front of both polling places, in addition to election judges, were people wearing orange vests from Powderhorn Safety Collective. A volunteer, Louis McCoy, said the group is nonpartisan, created after the George Floyd incident to help citizens connect and feel safe in their neighborhoods. It encourages neighbors to call police only for immediate threats to health or safety. On Tuesday its volunteers wanted to assure residents they could vote safely.
Still, with political tensions high, state officials are concerned about potential trouble after polls closed at 8 p.m. Gov. Tim Walz had already contacted the Minnesota National Guard and other law enforcement to consider possible scenarios, according to public safety commissioner and former St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington.
Walz, along with former Govs. Mark Dayton (Democrat), Tim Pawlenty (Republican), and Jesse Ventura (Reform Party governor who later registered independent), recently released a 78-second video urging civility and calm during and after the election.
An alliance of radical left-wing racial justice groups is planning a “National Day of Protest for a People’s Mandate” for Wednesday evening regardless of the election’s outcome.
In a surprise announcement Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would send federal officials to Minnesota and 17 other states to monitor elections for potential federal voting law violations.
Last week, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Minnesota absentee ballots coming in after Election Day must be separated from others in case of legal challenges. The counting of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day differs in each state, and legal challenges have thrown Minnesota’s absentee ballots into question: Currently, the state plans to count ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 10.—by Sharon Dierberger
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