WASHINGTON — Nacoties Fleming Jr., of Takoma Park, Maryland, switched parties after voting Republican for 41 years. An actor and comedian, he said he was casting his ballot for former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I just don’t like cheaters,” Fleming said. “So after 41 years, now that there’s a cheater in office, I just don’t want to be associated with Republicans ever. It’s that bad.”
But Lee Havis, a former GOP congressional candidate in Maryland who was at the same polling place in Prince George’s County, said he would back President Donald Trump.
“If we don’t get it right, the country is going to lurch in a very bad direction,” Havis said.
Capital News Service spoke with voters across Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as in Pennsylvania and Ohio, on Election Day. Voters on both sides of the political aisle voiced concern about the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans tended to worry about a rise in socialism, while Democrats were more likely to bring up social issues, such as racial disparities.
In Washington’s Ward 2 at the Capital One Arena downtown, which served as a center to accommodate large numbers of voters, Frances Atkinson, a 52-year-old employee at the American Public Health Association, voted for Biden because “having Trump in office has been really horrible for the country for the last four years, as far as reproductive and social justice.”
Due to her work at the APHA, Atkinson said she knows how important public health is in the nation, and that right now, “there is no plan with Trump.”
“With so many deaths on his doorstep, it’d be another reason to vote for Biden,” Atkinson said.
Monisola Oyeleke, a 21-year-old public relations major and political science minor student at Howard University, also worried about the Supreme Court, specifically its impacts on women’s rights and immigration.
Oyeleke said that the court’s new justice, Amy Coney Barrett, may want to overturn women’s reproductive rights, adding that “whatever a woman wants to do with her body is her business.”
Immigration is also a priority for her because Trump banned immigrants from Nigeria, where her family originally came from.
Oyeleke voted for Biden at Washington’s Prince Hall Center for the Performing Arts off of U Street in Ward 1. Neither the Masonic Temple or the Capital One Arena experienced long lines or congestion, according to CNS reporters on the scene.
In Ohio, Lisa Hendrickson, who works from her Newark home, voted for Trump and said she has liked all of his Supreme Court picks – and particularly Barrett – because they are “all pro-life.”
Hendrickson said Trump “really made good on his campaign promises,” and that a second term would allow him to “continue with the economic upturn he started.”
Some voters declined to share who they were voting for, like Michael Willis. The 61-year-old Washington native served as an election officer at the Prince Hall Center. Willis has worked the polls for five years, but this time, he said there is “not as much” in-person turnout and “everything is computerized.”
Brittany Logan, a 25-year-old consultant who voted in Washington’s Ward 2, also declined to share her choice. Logan said the presidential race has been more “more heated and passionate” than other elections, with “a lot more emotional exhaustion,” and that she voted with a “gut feeling” and a sense of civic duty.
“I want to make sure that I can look back and feel proud I took a stand of some way,” Logan said.
In Anne Arundel County — one of only two counties in Maryland where neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton received over 50% of the vote in 2016 — Deandre Barnes, who works in private security, cast a ballot for Biden, while Pam Greulich, who is retired, gave her vote to Trump.
“People need to vote their conscience,” Greulich said. “And I hope and pray with every part of me that they don’t choose socialism.”
She said the pandemic is a major issue at stake in this election. She said she is “sick and tired of already looking like a third world country where we’re having to wear masks everyday,” and especially worries about schoolchildren.
“They’re missing the most important thing, they’re missing being with other children and making friends for life,” Greulich said. “It saddens my heart to the point I’m just literally crying my eyes out that these children are growing up without that.”
Barnes was less enthusiastic about his candidate of choice than Greulich was, admitting that he wasn’t completely confident in Biden, but more so “than our current situation.”
“The leadership has been used in the wrong way. There’s a lot of fear-mongering, division, us versus them,” Barnes said.
He said racial tension in the country “is like being in the ’50s, ’60s, or ’70s.”
“We have to not — and I’ll use this term very loosely — whitewash history,” Barnes said. “It was egregious, it was wrong. Just because you acknowledge it doesn’t mean you have to accept that as today’s identity.”
In Maryland’s Calvert County, which gave Trump 56.8% of its vote in 2016, Deborah Porfiri and Rebecca Park were on opposite sides. Both are homemakers and voted at Northern High School in Owings, but Porfiri cast her ballot for the president, while Park chose Biden.
Porfiri, 48, from Huntingtown, said Trump “has the integrity and leadership to defend our nation, our religious freedom, authentic marriage, the military, the economy… and also to protect life.”
“That’s what our country needs,” Porfiri said.
Park disagreed and said she was frustrated with Trump’s pandemic response.
“He says he’s done everything he can,” Park said. “But really there’s so much more that could have been done.”
She said she is also tired of hearing the president: “Everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is hard to hear and hard to explain to my kids.”
In the Advent Lutheran Church polling location in York, Pennsylvania, Ellen Elinel, 23, a healthcare worker said she was voting for Biden primarily because of “his health care plan.” If pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, Elinel said, “a lot of my patients will be in a lot of trouble.”
Many people avoided election site madness by voting early, including David Morsberger, a Maryland electrical engineer. Nonetheless, he stopped by Crofton Elementary to watch the polls.
“It’s been wonderful,” Morsberger said. “People outside have been friendly… I’ve gone inside and looked around, and I watched them open up and it was great.”
While poll-watching, Morsberger distributed pro-Trump leaflets, taking care to remain behind “no electioneering beyond this point” signs. He voted last Wednesday for Trump, who he says is doing a good job handling the pandemic.
“It’s not perfect, nowhere in the world has been perfect, but he was given a hard job,” Morsberger said. “It’s easy to say ‘follow the science,’ but that’s one dimension of the larger problem.”
Beth Nowak, a 53-year-old physical therapist and artist from Huntingtown, Maryland, was also out monitoring polls.
On behalf of the nonpartisan organization Election Protection, Nowak said she looked out for signs of voter intimidation or excessive lines.
Still, lines were lengthy at multiple locations on Election Day. Some voters told CNS they waited over two-and-a-half hours at Northern High School in Owings, and voters who arrived at Northwestern Senior High School when the polls opened at 7 a.m. still had to wait about an hour.
Andraya Mays, a 29-year-old teacher, arrived at Northwestern Senior before 7 a.m. She said the pandemic was the biggest issue at stake in the election.
“Seeing the impact it’s had on (my students), but knowing that it’s not safe for us to go back to school yet, that’s my major thing,” Mays said. “Wanting things to get as close to normal as they can as soon as possible, and I don’t feel that that’s going to happen under the current administration.”
Mays was anxious about the election returns. “I’m going to be hungover either way,” she said.