America votes: We asked voters if, and why, they’ll head to polls.
The midterms are here; we visited nine states to ask voters if they are going to the polls on Tuesday — and why
In the end, after the rallies and robo-calls and angry rhetoric, the citizens have the final word, and the only word. They speak it in early voting and absentee ballots and on Election Day; as of Saturday, more than 33 million had already voted in the midterms. Or they stay silent by not voting at all. Americans are lousy at voting, actually. Compared to other developed countries, the United States ranked 26th out of 32 when the Pew Research Center analyzed participation in the 2016 elections around the world. But there looks to be record interest in the elections this year, and there’s certainly a lot of speculation about the spike in activity. To hear from Americans directly, photographers for The Washington Post went to nine states and simply asked them: Are you voting? And why?
Michelle Weston Newport Beach, Calif.
“I’m not going to vote. I get this feeling there is no solid option. There is negativity on both sides. All I am doing is participating in the popularity contest, not really voting on issues,” says Weston, 27, who is married and runs her own automotive brokership. “I voted for the president in 2016. I always vote on the Republican side, it was important for me to do that one thing. Being conservative in a Democratic state, it was important to make that statement.”
Terry Abbott Smithers, W. Va.
“I’ve been a coal miner for 48 years. Worked up and down that ladder. Especially important this year to vote. I am not a fan of Donald Trump at all. He may be our president, but he is not my leader. I don’t follow him. He’s a disaster. I don’t understand how women can vote for him in the way he treats other women. And we can’t vote for people who support him here in West Virginia . . . . But we are going to set them straight this time, I believe.”
Christina Danz, with her daughter, Amelia Gainesville, Ga.
“I had a baby. And everything kinda changed for me. I need to make a difference. And my vote counts. And I want it to count for her,” says Danz, 22, a college student majoring in chemistry. “I’ll be her voice until she is old enough to vote. I didn’t vote in the last election. I should have. And now I am paying for it. I will always vote from now on. Now I understand the importance of it. And Amelia sitting right here is the importance of voting.”
William “Bolts” Willis Smithers, W. Va.
“Politics controls the roads we ride on, the air we breathe, the water we drink,” says the nowretired Willis, a coal miner like his father and grandfather. “You better get involved in elections. Or you are going to lose those things you value. So you better vote!”
Megan Hatfield Hamlin, W. Va.
“It is always important to do your civic duty and vote, but it is even more important than ever,” says the high school math teacher. “The last ballot didn’t have candidates that supported teachers and service personnel. We need lawmakers that will work toward fixing our insurance and our salaries . . . . Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. Choose a candidate that supports your views. I am looking for a candidate that is proeducation and will protect my rights as woman.”
Kelly Pasch Nashville
“I’m registered, but honestly haven’t kept up.” Pasch doesn’t plan to vote.
Greg Mitchell Nashville
“I’m older than I look, and I feel voting is a duty,” says Mitchell, who voted early. “I’ve always said if you don’t vote you’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Carmen Gorgas Aurora, Colo.
“I just love this country, and I want what is best for it,” says Gorgas, 79, who was born in Cuba. “And every vote counts. Whoever thinks that ‘well, it won’t make a difference if I don’t vote,’ no. It will make a difference. And I like to make a good difference.”
Carlos Diaz Orlando
“I’m voting to make sure that my existence won’t be erased, that my voice has value,” says Diaz, 32, who came from Puerto Rico in 2014. “I’m way more than just being gay — I’m Latino, I’m queer, I’m here and those things make me special. And to make sure that my people are protected in the future.”
Eden Hardy Gainesville, Ga.
“I come from a very conservative background. Going here to a liberal arts college has allowed me to open my mind to feel empathy for others,” says Hardy, 19, a freshman at Brenau University. “People being taken off the . . . rolls is not what this country was founded on. Be an educated voter. I’ll be not only attending this Stacey Abrams rally but [will] also go to listen to Brian Kemp. So I can hear both sides of the issues.”
Aisha Yaqoob Duluth, Ga.
“Advocating for immigrants has made me understand how impactful it is when you have people in government, in power, who look like the communities they are making the decisions about,” says Yaqoob, 25, running for a State House seat in Georgia. She got involved first in outreach “because I realized my Muslim community had no idea what was happening . . . they had no interest in voting.”
Kyle GomezLeineweber Gainesville, Ga.
“I didn’t feel the sense of urgency in 2016 like I do now. It isn’t just filling in a bubble on a ballot sheet. It means something to vote,” says GomezLeineweber, 21, the Brenau College Democrats president. “My father and family are Mexican immigrants, and it is heartbreaking to think how many kids could lose their parents. Also to bring a sense of dignity back. We don’t know how to treat people anymore.”
Amy Ramirez Austin
“I already voted . . . done. First day,” says Ramirez, 32. “There’s a lot of folks that fought for the right to vote; we owe it to them. Also if we don’t pay attention to what's going on and vote and voice what we want with our vote, then we’re not going to be represented. I hope that we can get some great folks in Congress that are going to put a check on the presidency and change the way politics are right now. Folks that are running grass roots campaigns are doing a great job. That’s really important to me to not have corporate money influence our elections.”
Natasha HarperMadison Austin
“I will absolutely be voting, because it is my right, and I believe in exercising my right,” says HarperMadison, 41, a city council candidate. “Something I love to point out is Austin is an old enough city to have made a ton of mistakes, but a young enough city to get it right.”
Ron Thornton Newberry, Fla.
“I wasn’t a Trump supporter at the beginning, he bothered me with his mouth. We just didn’t want Hillary,” says the retired University of Florida faculty member, son of a sharecropper. He’s 79 and conservative. “The contrast between Gillum and DeSantis is massive — we’re on pins and needles. Working in politics is a real challenge. It’s really difficult to honor all those tenets of the Bible.”
Tamecka Pierce Orlando
“I think it’s very important for the felons’ rights campaign to push through. It’s going to change the whole political scene and the demographics of the state of Florida. It’s 2018 and to have 1.4 million [unable to vote] is absurd,” says Pierce, 44, who says police misconduct led to her 1999 arrest. She became an activist after getting out of jail in 2001. “You have black and browns and poor whites that are being disenfranchised, and that’s just not fair and they’re doing it on purpose so that they can get the votes.”
Les Anderson Welch, Minn.
“I think it is pretty critical [to vote] because of the direction of the country,” says Anderson, a farmer. “I am a Trump supporter and I am worried about immigration and the sanctuary state situation.”
Elizabeth Ortgiesen Plymouth, Minn.
“I am voting because there’s evidence to prove that 19to26 don’t get out to vote,’’ says Ortgiesen, 19, “and that has huge impacts on policies that are made in Washington and in our local government. So I am here to make a change because my voice matters.”
Joseph Raymond Gonzalez Roa Los Angeles
“I’ve never voted before; I’m very excited.” Roa, 18, got caught up in gangs, put on probation and now is back in school. He has been phonebanking to get out the vote. “I’ve always had this flame inside of me to take part in the improvement of my community, the world as a whole. I’m really into that: justice overall.”
Dawn Perkins and Mike Bannister Nashville
“I have a lot of issues with politics right now. There’s so much backstabbing. It feels like [voting] doesn’t matter at all,” says Bannister. Neither he nor Perkins is going to vote. “I don’t vote because the electoral system needs some overhaul.” His own vote “doesn’t carry much weight.”
"“I’m out here because the flag is bigger than politics,” says Curt Cook, of Denver, waving the flag from an overpass along Interstate 25 outside Castle Rock, Colo., on Oct. 28. “I do it for the Democrats. I do it for the Republicans.” The flag represents Americans of “all different races, types, shapes, forms and everything.” Voting does, too: “It’s the most patriotic thing you can do.”
A billboard issues a oneword order to motorists along Michigan’s Route 69, outside Flint, on Oct. 29.
Pedestrians, scooters and cars make Broadway in downtown Nashville a bustling place on Oct. 24.
A dog’s in a hurry along a street in the old coal mining town of Montgomery, W. Va., on Oct. 14.
A father and son who asked to remain unidentified look at the United States through the border fence separating Playa de Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, on Oct. 26.