On Election Day, Americans took time to vote, and to explain why this ritual means so much to them. At polling places and in luncheonettes, on the storm-battered East Coast and in a California city hobbled by foreclosure, in precincts large and small, they celebrated democracy — and the end of a long and bitter campaign.
LAKEWOOD, Colo.: Two women, two different decisions
In swing state Colorado, elections typically are decided in three suburban counties where women play a key role. That fact didn’t escape the Romney and Obama campaigns, which spent plenty of time and money reaching out to that important voting bloc in Arapahoe, Larimer and Jefferson counties — and, indeed, all across the land.
In Lakewood, west of Denver in Jefferson County, finding the time to even vote was one of many challenges for single mother Amber Tuffield. Her day started in typical fashion: Three trips up the stairs to rouse her 13-year-old son, Dallas, out of bed. A trip down to the basement to find clean clothes for her 16-year-old daughter, Sage. Put a pot roast in the Crock-Pot for dinner.
Tuffield works two jobs — one as a secretary, the other bartending — and worries most about having decent health care and ensuring her children get a solid education. But two things in particular stuck with her this Election Day: Mitt Romney’s secretly recorded assertion that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims,” and his suggestion that students should borrow money from their parents if they can’t afford college.
It all left her questioning whether the Republican could really relate to people like her, and prompted this registered independent to vote for Obama instead.
“Looking at both of them, I’m more comfortable with the known than the unknown,” said Tuffield, 44.
In Arapahoe County, Republican precinct leader Lori Horn spent her day coordinating poll observers. Like Tuffield, she worries about her children’s future, but believes Romney and his economic plan are the best bet for her family.
“I have a daughter on the precipice of college and a career,” said the 50-year-old mother of two. “I have to make this a priority.”
—By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO: Supporting the president in style
Make no mistake — Carter’s Barber Shop is Obama country.
None of the customers here waited until Tuesday to cast ballots. They voted for the president days or weeks ago. Kim Jackson, who was getting her hair trimmed, wore an “I WAS THERE” button that she bought that celebratory night four years ago when she watched President-elect Barack Obama take the stage in Grant Park.
Bert Downing, the shop’s owner, said Obama needs more time to deal with “the huge plate of problems he inherited. … It’s a work in progress. I just want to see him complete the mission. ”
Downing believes Obama has been treated differently because he’s black. “The blatant disrespect?” he said, shaking his head in frustration. “Would they have done it if had been Bush or Reagan? At the bottom of all this … is race. If he were white, he wouldn’t have the same problems.”
It would be hard to find a more Obama-friendly spot in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. The barber shop sits on the edge of a West Side ward that supported the president by a 99 percent-plus majority in 2008. And the regulars are pleased with his policies.
Charles Leeks, who had a liver transplant last November, pointed to Obama’s health care program. Because of it, he said, he doesn’t have to worry about a lifetime cap on insurance coverage.
But Leeks said the president doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Instead, he said, Obama’s been subject to harping about his birth certificate and college transcripts. “It’s an insult to the country. … All these things that we’re patting ourselves on the back for as a society that we’ve really evolved — we still have a lot of work to do.”
—By SHARON COHEN, AP National Writer
PATASKALA, Ohio: In battleground Ohio, relief the election is (almost) over
If there was one thing the regulars at the Nutcracker restaurant could agree upon Tuesday, it was that the presidential campaign went on for far too long.
Like voters throughout Ohio, residents of this small town east of Columbus were inundated for months with ads, campaign mail and phone calls. Just Monday, both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney stumped in central Ohio for the umpteenth time.
“Overbearing,” said 77-year-old Ken Armentrout, a retired truck driver who stopped in to eat after voting for Romney on a bright, frosty day. “It was the same thing over and over.”
“Annoying,” added Jack Cruikshank, a 69-year-old retired heavy equipment operator who voted early for Romney. “They beat you over the head with it.”
Sitting between them was 61-year-old Lewie Hoskinson, a retired city worker who his friends claim is the only Obama supporter in the town of 14,000 souls. “I’m sure there are others, but I’m the only one who will admit it,” Hoskins said, to belly laughs from his buddies.
Pataskala (pronounced puh-TASK-uh-lah) and rural Licking County are so Republican that Hoskins twice had his Obama yard sign vandalized. Still, Hoskinson said he supported the president because he seemed more in touch with the working man and because he engineered the auto bailout, a big deal in a state where that industry looms large.
His friends acknowledged they weren’t exactly thrilled with Romney but said Obama hadn’t done enough to get the economy moving.
And on that subject, these Republicans and their Democratic companion could also find consensus.
In Ohio and the rest of the country, they said, this Election Day was still all about the economy.
—By MITCH STACY, Associated Press Writer
LITTLE FERRY, N.J.: Voting in the shadow of Sandy
The Big Dipper hangs over Liberty Street as Frank Puzzo arrives to begin his Election Day duties. Just a week ago, rescuers were piloting boats through three feet of water that coursed past Memorial School and throughout this storm-scarred town. Now, it’s 28 degrees; the first voters won’t arrive for nearly an hour.
But Puzzo — whose apartment still has no heat or hot water, whose car was claimed by storm surge — is the first to arrive to prepare and open the polls.
“This is super important for the future of the country, especially the way things have been for the last few years,” says Puzzo, an accountant who has been out of work since the end of July. “It’s one of the most basic and important rights that we have, the right to choose our governmental leaders.”
The people of Little Ferry could be pardoned if they focused purely on their beleaguered present. Some arrived shivering and clearly exhausted, their long-held certainties about shelter and safety deeply shaken. But the future matters to the people lined up at the voting machines in the hallway outside Ms. Kukula’s third-grade class.
Agim Coma, a 25-year-old construction worker, is the first voter to arrive, 13 minutes before polls open. The storm claimed his apartment and car.
It’s important because it’s our day,” he said, as Election Day in America got under way here and everywhere. “No matter what happens — hurricanes, tornados — it’s our day to vote.”
—By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer