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Ahead of Election Day 2020, 100 million people cast their ballots either through in-person early voting or using mail-in or absentee ballots. Women drove much of that activity; they cast more than half the ballots in key battleground states, according to data from Decision Desk HQ.
Now, on November 3, millions more are expected to cast their ballots in the 2020 general election. The 19th fanned out across several parts of the country — Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania — and called voters elsewhere to find out what issues are on their minds, and how much gender is impacting their decision.
If you plan to vote today, make a plan and be sure you have the latest information on the rules and regulations in your area.
Carolyn Bailey, Mississippi
Carolyn Bailey was determined to cast her ballot in person — even though the 67-year-old qualifies for an absentee ballot in Mississippi under the law’s narrow stipulations. (The state is the only one where in-person voting on Election Day is the only option for all voters, according to the Democracy Initiative.)
“I wanted to make sure my vote got counted and come to the polls,” she said, adding that she wants to see President Donald Trump, whom she referred to as a “bully,” ousted from the White House.
When asked about Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race — between Cindy Hyde-Smith, the incumbent Republican and the state’s only female congresswoman, and Mike Espy, a Democrat who could become the state’s first Black senator since Reconstruction — Bailey said, “He’s the better man; She’s not a good woman, OK?”
Ash Blair, North Carolina
Ash Blair and her wife made sure to get in line at 6:30 a.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina. The couple wanted to cast ballots in person to make sure their votes were recorded, but they were nervous.
“I think my county is split 49-48 for Biden-Trump, and we’re both visibly gay and have been harassed for being gay in public before,” Blair told The 19th. Long lines for early voting added to Blair’s fears.
“Took us about an hour all told, but everyone was subdued,” she concluded. “I had to bring our son to the car for most of the time waiting, because it was too cold. Glad I had a partner with me who could hold our place.”
Elizabeth Bruggeman and Perri Schenker, Symmes Township, Ohio
Elizabeth Bruggeman, 53, and Perri Schenker, 61, spent Tuesday afternoon handing out Democratic sample ballots at a polling location in Symmes Township, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. Schenker said only a “smattering” of voters came during her four-hour shift, and county elections data showed most Democrats had voted early. (Both women say they voted early, too.)
Bruggeman said she had always been a Democrat but started getting more politically active during Barack Obama’s first election in 2008. After President Donald Trump’s election, she co-founded a group called Peacefully United Resistance that’s an affiliate of Indivisible. It now has about 300 members.
“We really came together,” Bruggeman said. “People started coming out of the woodwork.” The group’s aim is to “engage as many people as we can from both sides.”
Kathryne Durham, Jackson, Mississippi
“It’s my first time voting — first time ever,” said Kathryne Durham, 49, while walking into the Eudora Welty Library in Jackson, Mississippi, just ahead of the lunch rush.
“I just felt like my time was overdue,” she said. “I needed to be heard. Every citizen needs to be heard, and I was not exercising my right to vote. I felt bad about it. Now I feel much much better. Now every time a vote is needed, I’ll make sure I’m here.”
This morning, Durham said she was questioning what the experience would be like. The presidential election is the primary reason Durham, who leans toward Democratic candidates, took this step. Disposable pens, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer available at this site made for a positive first-time experience.
“Afterwards I felt wonderful. I felt so relieved. I finally did my duty. I finally got out and voted.”
Camille Jose, 23, Osceola County, Florida
In Osceola County, the heart of Florida’s Puerto Rican community, the power of the Latinx vote has been growing, particularly after the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017, which triggered a mass exodus from the island and to the county just south of Orlando.
Osceola is home for much of the low-wage workforce that is employed at Walt Disney World and the region’s surrounding hotels, motels and larger-than-life theme park gift shops. For Democrats, the arrival of waves of Puerto Ricans in Central Florida has reinforced their numbers in the swingiest part of arguably the nation’s swingiest state where every single vote carries tremendous power.
It was with that in mind that Camille Jose reached her precinct Tuesday evening with minutes to spare. Jose had initially mistakenly gone to a precinct in the neighboring county and was sent to the Robert Guevara Community Center in Kissimmee instead. Her sister, Ashley, drove her and the pair pulled up to the precinct at 6:56 p.m. The polls closed at 7.
It was Jose’s first time voting in a presidential election. “I know there is a lot of people on social media that think that their vote doesn’t count. But what we have to realize is if they believe that, then 10 other people believe that, right?” said Jose, 23. “And that’s what happened last election where people didn’t vote and here we are now after.”
Jose cast her ballot for Biden Tuesday, saying the former Vice President’s policies on the economy, the environment and his stance in support of racial equity were particular motivators for her. She said she was also “100 percent disappointed” in Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Jose was recently laid off from her job as a customer service representative at Verizon, and she said she’s seen first-hand how many people in her community have been affected by the pandemic.
As a Latina whose parents are from the Dominican Republic, Jose said this election felt particularly critical for her. There was no way she would skip it, even if she had to speed from one county to another to make it in time. Her parents, she said, told her she “better go out and vote.” As she left the polls Tuesday, she said she felt like she was “making a difference.” Her sister, Ashley, echoed that sentiment.
“I’m so proud of her,” she said.
Alice Misero, The Villages, Florida
At a quintessential recreation center in the heart of America’s largest retirement community, voters trickled into the building — all red bricks and white columns — Tuesday afternoon. Here, in Florida’s most engaged political community, nearly 80 percent of registered voters had already voted early.
The Villages, as this area is called, is staunchly conservative. In 2016, Trump won the county with 68 percent of the vote. There’s no doubt The Villages will support Trump again this year — the question in Florida’s senior vote is how much of it could flip for Biden, a potential bellwether in a state with huge consequence.The candidate who won Florida has won every election but two since 1928.
Trump’s influence was easy to spot Tuesday. Greeting voters at the entrance to the Eisenhower Recreation Center: a woman in a red, white and blue sequined cowboy hat, sans mask, her white car adorned in Trump signs.
Alice Misero drove her navy golf cart past them, American flags flapping behind her, a sign taped to its side in pink lettering: “Women for Trump.”
Misero, a Republican, supported the president in 2016 and again this year, saying she feels he’s kept many of the promises he made the first time around.
The retired nurse wasn’t dissuaded by the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic — an issue polls suggest is cutting into Trump’s support among seniors.
“I think he’s done the best he can,” said Misero, 64. “They’ve never given him credit for what he’s done.”
Heading to cast her vote Tuesday, she thought about her 18-year-old grandson who would be voting for the first time
“I took him to a 2016 Trump rally and it was the highlight of his teen years, I think,” Misero said, laughing. Her daughter-in-law, an immigrant from Kyrgyzstan who is a U.S. citizen, is also voting for the first time this year. They’re all supporting Trump.
“She knows what it’s like to live through communism and I don’t want to,” Misero said. “And that’s what I think will happen [under a Biden administration].”
In Sumter County, home to The Villages, 59 percent of early voters were registered Republicans, while 24 percent were registered Democrats. That’s lower than in 2016, when registered Republicans took more than 60 percent of the share.
Earlier in the election cycle, caravans of pro-Biden golf carts sent waves of concern that Florida, a state Trump likely can’t win without, could flip. In 2016, the president won the Sunshine State by 1 percent, about 100,000 votes.
But on Tuesday in The Villages, only a lone Biden supporter stood outside. Mask on, she quietly held up a Biden-Harris sign.
Mariah Hawkins, Mississippi
Mariah Hawkins is the mom of 2-year-old Carter, who rested on her hip the half-hour it took for his mom to vote. “I just told my husband if I had to stand in a long line I definitely will do so. It’s nothing for me,” she said. Hawkins, 27, is not panicking — the results are up to the Lord.
Carter is part of Hawkins’ motivation for casting a ballot against President Donald Trump, who she called “careless.”
“I feel like we have a clown in the office right now. And then I’m raising a Black boy. His future matters to me and my future matters as well,” she said.
On the topic of police brutality, she doesn’t want Carter to feel afraid when he grows up or to endure anything similar to their ancestors. “You know how they say history repeats itself. That’s why we have to get out and vote. And let our voice be that vote.”
Janet Emerson, The Villages, Florida
When Janet Emerson met her husband, Tom, in The Villages neither had been married before. They wed in May 2019. But their slate of celebrations — the New Orleans Jazz Fest, a cruise to Alaska, the golf Masters Tournament, an anniversary celebration at Walt Disney World — all of it got derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, and in Emerson’s estimation, Trump’s handling of it.
Emerson, 66, said she has watched every single coronavirus task force meeting, day after day, hours and hours of footage.
“Our democracy is at stake,” the lifelong Democrat said. “[Trump] is a disaster in protecting us against the virus.”
On Tuesday, she sat next to a Biden sign at her precinct, watching voters come and go. Emerson voted early by mail.
She said in the past few years, she’s seen as Republicans in her community flipped to support Biden. She knows about 20 who have turned on the president, her husband included.
He’s a lifelong Republican, and he voted for Trump in 2016. But this year, his vote went to all Democrats. Tom Emerson said he’s opposed to the president’s pandemic response, but most of all, “You don’t mess with his Medicare and Social Security.” He’s worried Trump will erode his benefits.
Emerson said it’s common now to see golf carts that say “proud Republican voting for Biden” in some parts of The Villages. But as she spoke, the sound of a golf cart pulling up beside her interrupted her speech. It was plastered in Trump signs.
A man in a Trump 2020 cap came up to her, a few stapled pages in his hands.
“The Democratic Party is a threat to the country because they want no voter ID, they want no school choice and they want no term limits,” he shouted, “and that’s the truth.”
He shoved the pages in Emerson’s face, shouting, “Read it, read this paragraph, read it.”
“Get away from me,“ she told him, pulling her Minnie Mouse mask up over her nose and tightly on her face.
“I don’t need a dumbass like you to tell me what I think,” she told him.
When he finally desisted, he returned to his golf cart and watched her.
“Welcome to The Villages,” her friend muttered under her breath.
K. Potter, St. Louis, Missouri
K. Potter arrived at their polling place in St. Louis at 6:40 a.m., but still waited two hours and 15 minutes in a line that wrapped around the block.
“Overall, the process was good. More poll workers than in previous years, and overall they ranged a lot younger as well,” the nonbinary 32-year-old said. “Masks and social distancing were required, and all the workers were masked up.”
Potter voted for Biden-Harris even though the two weren’t their ideal choice, they said. “They’re light-years better than the current administration on issues that matter to me and my community: health care, LGBTQIA rights, student loan debt, reproductive justice, climate change, court and judge appointments, [and] SCOTUS on down,” Potter said.
Christy Wyatt and her son Jason, Symmes Township, Ohio
Christy Wyatt, 43, voted with her 20-year-old son Jason, who voted for the first time. Wyatt, who is Black, said she used to go vote with her grandmother as a child.
“She’d tell me it’s your right, you’ve got to get out there and cast your ballot,” Wyatt said. “Our ancestors died for us to have a voice.”
She said she votes for a mix of Democrats and Republicans, particularly at the local level. She cast her ballot for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, along with Kate Schroder, a Democrat who is trying to flip a U.S. House seat.