After a Brutal Campaign,|America’s Decision Day Arrives

           (CN) – At long last, it’s here. Election Day, 2016, and with it the end of the longest, nastiest and most expensive presidential campaign in history.
     According to the United States Election Project, 46.2 million people have already cast their ballots in early voting.
     Preliminary reports on the East Coast, where polls opened at 7 a.m., is that in-person voting was going smoothly, with those turning out at the polls encountering waits of about 30 minutes. However, there was a disturbence at a midtown Manhattan polling place, where two topless women staged a protest against Republican Donald Trump.
     The women were arrested and taken to New York’s 17th precinct where they were issued summonses for electioneering.
     Trump voted at the very same polling place about an hour later and when asked how he felt said, “everything is great.”
           Before setting out to the polls, Trump made a last round of calls to television and radio stations, starting with the “Fox and Friends” show on Fox News. During that appearance he said he believes the campaign “changed” him because it made him more aware of other people’s thwarted aspirations.
     “I see so many hopes and so many dreams out there that didn’t happen, that could have happened, with leadership, with proper leadership,” he said on Fox News. “And people are hurt so badly.”
     Democrat Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, voted early in Chappaqua, New York, and afterwards the candidate, who could in a matter of hours be the first women ever elected president of the United States, struck a humble tone.
     “I know how much responsibility goes with this,” Clinton said. “So many people are counting on the outcome of this election, what it means for our country, and I will do the very best I can if I’m fortunate enough to win today.”
     Elsewhere, Vice President Joe Biden voted early in Wilmington, Delaware, accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden.
     “The bad news is I’m not going away,” he joked as he posed for selfies with people waiting in line to vote.
     He also saluted volunteers for helping the process run smoothly.
     “What’s your name? How are you? I haven’t seen you in mass lately,” the Greenville resident said, working the crowd.
     “That happened to me two elections ago,” he told a man filling out a voter verification form. “They said, ‘You sure you live here?'”
     After casting his ballot, Biden declared that “it’s a beautiful day to vote.”
     “It could be a very long night or it could be very short,” he said, telling a reporter to keep an eye on Florida.
     Both Clinton and Trump have argued the election presents a deeply divided nation with a stark choice regarding its future.
     Clinton and other Democrats have repeatedly warned that the GOP standard-bearer is temperamentally unfit to be president, and that his rhetoric on race, gender and immigration, represents a rejection of core American values.
     Trump insists his outsider campaign represents America’s last chance to drive out a corrupt political establishment that has turned its back on blue-collar workers.
     Despite reports that voting was going relatively smoothly Tuesday morning, there are widespread concerns about what will transpire throughout the day.
     According to a recent study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights, southern states released from Section 5 of the Voting Rights act will have almost 900 fewer polling places open Tuesday compared to 2012.
     In North Carolina there are reports of longer than normal lines, some of which is being attributed to the consolidation of polling places.
           Fusion.net is also reporting that the Republican Party of North Carolina has been trumpeting what it calls the crumbling of the Obama coalition.
     Based on early voting, the state GOP says, “African American early voting is down 8.5% from this time in 2012,”
     Meanwhile, the party says white early voting in North Carolina was up 22.5 percent from 2012.
     Problems are also anticipated in several states that have imposed new Voter ID laws, including Texas and Wisconsin.
     A number of voters across the country have also reported that they did not receive absentee ballots they requested or got them too late to return.
     The Justice Department has also deployed poll monitors in 28 states to watch for voter intimidation, a threat that’s been the subject of lawsuits filed in multiple states in the days leading up to the vote.
     
     10:28 a.m.
     
     OHIO (CN) – Trump found strong support in Medina, Ohio, which is 40 miles southeast of Cleveland.
     “I was raised with conservative values, and I feel this country needs conservative values,” said Steve Hummel. “Having a conservative president would affect Supreme Court nominations and have a lasting impact on the country.”
     Angela Clabough liked the fact that Trump is “not a professional politician, and we need to see some change.”
     Other voters had negative views of Clinton.
     Laura Tayerle said, “I don’t trust Hillary,” and Victor Howe remarked, “she’s a criminal.”
     
     11:11 a.m.
     
     Voting machine problems have been reported in Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee.
     
     11:45 a.m.
     
     UTAH (CN) – Election officials said voting machine problems in southern Utah are forcing poll workers to use paper ballots, potentially affecting tens of thousands of people.
     Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas said that issue is a programming problem that has affected all voting in Washington County, but so far it appears limited to that county. About 52,000 registered voters there had yet to cast their ballots when the problem developed.
     
     11:50 a.m.
     
     (CN) – President Barack Obama took to Twitter Tuesday to urge his more than 11 million followers to “go vote.”
     In doing so he said “progress is on the ballot,” and that they should make sure that their friends, family and everyone they know votes, too.
     Earlier, Tuesday morning, the president traveled by motorcade to Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, where he played basketball at the fort’s gym with friends, This apparently is an Election Day ritual for Obama dating back to his own campaigns for president.
     
     11:54 a.m.
     
           TENNESSEE (CN) — A half hour south of Nashville, the town square in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was relatively quiet Tuesday morning, with only a handful of voters shuffling in and out of a nearby polling place.
     More than 79,000 Rutherford County residents voted early, according to local news reports, nearly half of the county’s 167,000 registered voters.
     Murfreesboro resident Jeremy Marable, 24, told Courthouse News he voted for Clinton but was not especially persuaded by either candidate.
     “I think they both have some negative qualities about themselves. Trump, I don’t think he has the experience or expertise,” Marable said. “To me, neither one of them is honest. They’re both promising some things that I don’t think either one can own up to.”
     He said he voted for Clinton “because at least she has some type of experience in this field.”
     Marable said he thinks Trump will win if Americans vote based on their prejudices, but thinks Clinton will win if people vote with “common sense.”
     Regardless of the outcome, he said he’s excited to find out who wins the White House on Tuesday night.
     “I want to know, because it’s going to dictate a lot of people’s future,” Marable said.
     
     12:24 p.m.
     
     LOUISIANA (CN) – In New Orleans the vast majority of voters polled at two separate precincts said Tuesday they were supporting Clinton.
           At a precinct at a firehouse in the business district downtown, the line at 7:30 a.m. was roughly 30 people thick.
     Kyle Malray, 27, and Austin Poole, 22, originally of northwest Louisiana and Mobile, Al, said they voted for Clinton. Both said they liked Clinton’s policies and had planned to vote for her since at least the last year or more.
     At a precinct in uptown New Orleans where wealthy neighborhoods with mansions and fancy cars intersect poor, crime ridden neighborhoods where blighted houses have yet to be fixed since hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago, most voters said they had chosen Clinton. Some of them — especially African American women — answered the question by saying only, “Look at me.”
     A white, 39 year-old history teacher who voted with her nine-year-old son declined to give her name said she voted for Clinton and spoke of the students at her all girl’s middle school feeling “unsafe” by Trump’s “misogynistic” and “deplorable” comments.
     David Klump, 49, meanwhile, who voted alongside his 10 year-old daughter, said his vote for Trump was a “vote for the non-criminal.”
     Aside from Klump, just one other voter, 80-year-old Bernadine Meeker, a white woman who lives uptown, said they were voting for Trump.
     Keith Brannon, 44, said he was a longtime Clinton supporter and was “excited” to have the chance to vote for a woman president.
     Ray Shattenkirk, 62, said he grew up in a Clinton era and had a positive feeling about Clinton’s work ethic and integrity and her ability to get things done. Shattenkirk additionally said he “would not put the nuclear code in the hands of a mad man,” and called Trump a “narcissistic sociopath.”
     
     12:28 p.m.
     
     ARIZONA (CN) – Voters in Maricopa County were faced with long lines Tuesday morning, as polling locations reported computer glitches throughout the valley.
           At a Salvation Army in downtown Phoenix, voters in line at 8 a.m. were told to expect up to an hour wait.
     After forgetting to mail in his ballot, Phoenix resident Andrew Wheeler stopped by the poll to drop off his early ballot.
     “You’d think after the last time that they would’ve fixed these lines,” Wheeler said.
     A decrease in polling locations across Maricopa County earlier this year forced voters to wait up to five hours in March’s Presidential Preference Election after Recorder Helen Purcell cut the number of locations to 60 from 200. Purcell, a Republican, is up for re-election today.
     “She’s gotta go,” said Gretchen Lynn after casting her vote. Lynn, who is self-employed, identifies as a “centrist.”
     “Our voting process needs to be overhauled,” she said.
     At 7 a.m., voters waiting at Tempe High School near Arizona State University were told to expect a three-hour wait due to faulty electronic voter rolls. That wait appeared to have cleared up by 8 a.m., as did a 200-person line at Cornerstone Christian Center in Avondale, a city adjacent to Phoenix.
     Jimmy Guerrero, a handyman, said he only waited about 30 minutes to vote at Cornerstone.
     “Not everyone has this right. It wasn’t an option not to vote,” the 53-year-old said.
     Guerrero declined to say who he voted for as president, but said he hopes this is the last chance at re-election for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
     Arpaio is embroiled in a heated race for his seventh term against Paul Penzone, a Democrat and former Phoenix police sergeant.
     “No more Joe,” Guerrero said. “He’s cost us so much money, and so much respect. He’s made this county a joke.”
     
     12:44 p.m.
     
     TEXAS (CN) – In Texas, Houston resident James Thomas voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Thomas said that Clinton was a “uniter” and “more qualified for office” at a polling station in the Alief district in Houston.
     He said that he was looking for a candidate that would “lead by being respectful to other people,” and Clinton met that standard.
     Another Houston resident, Edith Stevens, voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Alief district polling station. Stevens said that she preferred Trump’s stances on immigration and “law and order.”
     She also believed that Trump would create more jobs and help the economy.
     The polling station had a steady influx of voters Tuesday morning, who were primarily African-American. Few voters were interested in participating in an interview, either because they needed to return to work or because they were not comfortable answering questions about their voting choices.
     
     12:53 p.m.
     
     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – It’s time to shatter the glass ceiling, said a 34-year-old Oakland, California man who voted for Hillary Clinton for president. The man, who did not want to be identified, added that a Democrat would defend abortion rights and marriage equality.
     “I’m hoping promoting a woman to our highest office will lead to more fairness and opportunity for women in the U.S. and abroad,” he said.
     A tepid Donald Trump supporter, who also did not want to be identified, said he voted for the Republican nominee out of party “loyalty.” The 31-year-old Oaklander said he believes a Trump presidency will be more tame than pundits predict because Donald Trump’s advisors will rein him in on his more “extreme” positions.
     But both voters agreed: No on Proposition 64, California’s initiative to legalize recreational cannabis. The data on how legalization has affected other states is inconclusive, and until those numbers are in, cannabis should remain illegal, the Clinton supporter said.
     
     1:31 p.m.
     
     FLORIDA (CN) – Stepping out of Sunken Gardens, one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions serving as a voting site, Phil Rizzo of St. Petersburg let out a sigh.
     “It went pretty smooth,” he said about his voting experience. “There was a little line earlier, so I just came back before lunch.”
     The 53-year-old chose Donald Trump for president, mostly because the real estate mogul is “anti-establishment.”
     “Career politicians were never the intention of the founding fathers,” Rizzo said. “This is [Trump’s] first foray into politics.”
     Rizzo, who works in real estate himself, listed off Trump’s business accomplishments, hoping those will translate into national politics.
     “He will bring common sense to spending and budgeting,” he said. “I think we’re absolutely horrible in trade … none of our career politicians, in the past, have had a conversation about that.”
     Rizzo admits some of Trump’s past comments were a mistake, but he overlooked those words today.
     “He’s not a saint by any stretch, but I’m not looking for someone to babysit my grandkids,” Rizzo said.
     Martin Frame of St. Petersburg thinks the opposite.
     “He’s not a good business person,” Frame said of Trump while standing under the botanical gardens’ towering palm trees. “He’s also a disgusting person.”
     And though Frame filled in the bubble next to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s name, he wasn’t thrilled by the choice.
     “Generally, I tend to vote Republican but I couldn’t find myself voting for Trump this year,” Frame said, adding this is the first time he’s voted for a Democrat. “I think she’s the one that will do less harm.”
     St. Petersburg is the largest city in Pinellas County, long considered a bell-weather for national politics with a nearly even split between Republicans and Democrats.
     President Barack Obama won the county in 2012 and 2008. Former President George W. Bush also won the county for both terms.
     According to early voting numbers, Republicans have cast more ballots than Democrats in Pinellas County.
     Statewide, more than 6.4 million Floridians voted early — that’s 49.7 percent of registered voters.
     Undoubtedly, many voters are happy the election is almost over.
     “It’s been terrible,” said Allyson Duffy, after leaving her St. Petersburg polling site. “It’s been far too negative for months at a time for us to have to deal with.”
     Duffy, 34, would not say who she voted for.
     “It was really difficult to make a decision,” she said. “It’s just been too negative for my taste, especially with me pregnant.”
     Duffy is, however, interested in the results of the state’s ballot initiatives, including a measure to enshrine medical marijuana in the Florida Constitution. That measure was narrowly defeated two years ago.
     Still, Duffy has not yet decided if she will watch the results tonight:
     “I can see myself binging on something stupid and not watching anything election-related.”
     
     2:22 p.m.
     
     WISCONSIN (CN) – Voting Democrat in 2016 was an easy decision for Chris LeTendre and his mother, Joan.
     “The only experience Trump has in Washington is going there to get sued,” Chris said after leaving a polling place in Milwaukee’s Humboldt Park in the heart of the Bay View neighborhood.
     The two always knew they would vote for Hillary Clinton, they said, but do not identify with any particular political party, instead choosing candidates depending on the specific election.
     Joan said “the way he talks” ruled the outspoken Donald Trump out. The candidate has a history of maligning ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and most recently bragging about sexually assaulting women.
     Joan said she may have even voted for Republican Ron Johnson for Wisconsin’s senate seat in Washington if he hadn’t endorsed Trump, but Chris disagreed: Johnson is allied with the billionaire Koch brothers, who advocate for mining in the northern part of Wisconsin.
     The LeTendres are part Menominee and Potawatomi, and Chris visits Northern Wisconsin regularly to hunt.
     “There are no trees up north anymore,” Joan said, thanks to politicians supported by mining interests.
     The LeTendres can trace their roots back to “before Milwaukee was Milwaukee,” through their ancestor, Jean Baptiste LeTendre, who was an associate of city founder Solomon Juneau, they said.
     Milwaukee has long been a Democratic stronghold, so much so that vocal Trump supporter and frequent Fox News commentator Sheriff David Clarke Jr. has twice won running as a Democrat. The sheriff was not on the ballot this cycle, but the local offices of Milwaukee county clerk, treasurer and register of deeds listed only unopposed Democrats as candidates.
     
     2:55 p.m.
     
           FLORIDA (CN) – Miami-Dade County expects no issues or delays as thousands of voters converge on the polls for Election Day in South Florida.
     Miami-Dade opened 854 voting precincts at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.
     “There have been no lines at all. It has been relatively smooth,” said Roberto Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.
     Rodriguez said that as of Sunday, 56 percent of eligible voters had already voted by mail or by early voting in Miami.
     During this election Miami-Dade has seen a bigger concentration of people voting early.
     According to Rodriguez, there has been a 40-50 percent increase in voting by mail from the 2012 to the 2016 elections.
     Results for early voting and mail in votes will be posted at 7:15 p.m. in the Miami Dade website www.miamidade.gov/elections , and after that results for the different precincts will be posted every 30-40 minutes throughout the night.
     At a precinct at a public library in the West Miami area, dozens of Donald Trump supporters greeted incoming voters with “Vote for Trump” signs.
     “I voted for Trump the very first day … He’s going to make American great again, and that’s not a slogan it’s the truth,” said Juan Fiol, a volunteer leader in Miami-Dade for the Trump campaign.
     “Trump is a person that understands business and workers. He knows what needs to be done as opposed to Hillary Clinton who has become a billionaire through corruption and extortion,” he added.
     In Miami the Cuban-American community is very outspoken about its support for the Republican Party and Donald Trump.
     Pedro Perdomo, a Cuban exile and a political prisoner from the Castro regime, said that he’s been a Republican ever since he came to the United States in 1988.
     “I voted for Trump because he’s a republican … I don’t vote for a democrat who’s a coward and a traitor like Hillary Clinton,” said Perdomo.
     Greta Lopez, who is originally from Cuba, preferred to keep her vote private, but she urged all Miami-Dade voters to exercise their right and duty as U.S. citizens.
     “It doesn’t matter who you are voting for. You need to get out here and vote, and make your voice count,” said Lopez.
     A quieter voting center in Florida International University had young voters cast their ballots since the early morning hours.
     Matthew Colombo, 19 and a pre-med student at FIU, said that the new president needs to provide “more loans and grants to young people, because how can we progress as a society without an educated youth.”
     “I’m voting for Hillary Clinton; she’s better than Trump … Anything is better than Trump,” said Stephanie Valdez, a Miami native that graduated from FIU.
     However, there were some voters like Mike Hernandez, who decided to vote for the Libertarian nominee. “I’m voting for Gary Johnson. I’m voting for him because the other two candidates are absolutely despicable,” said Hernandez.
     
     3:01 p.m.
     
     MONTANA (CN) – In Helena, Montana, lifelong Republican Jim Stevens, 77, said he voted against Donald Trump in the presidential election, because he “just couldn’t vote for that guy.”
     “Flags would have to fly at half-staff if that guy wins,” Stevens added.
     John Zavalney, 71, wearing a shirt that read “Win one for the groper — love nasty women – also cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton.
     “I had to turn my shirt inside out when I went inside to vote, but she has the experience,” Zavalney said.
     They also agreed on their votes for the U.S. House of Representatives. Zoth chose Denise Juneau, who if elected would be the only Native American woman to serve in Congress.
     “I think [GOP incumbent Ryan] Zinke is doing this more to fuel his own ambition,” Zavalney said.
     Stevens said he was wary of all the campaign contributions to Zinke coming from California.
     “That bothered me,” he said.
     Another voter, Lisa Troyer, 37, said she thinks both Juneau and Clinton are the best qualified candidates.
     
     3:20 p.m.
     
     HAWAII (CN) – A few hundred voters filed quietly into Kailua Elementary School cafeteria on Windward Oahu in Hawaii Tuesday morning, and then quietly filed back out, absent the excitement that seemed to animate presidential preference polls just months ago.
     Most of those who stopped to talk to Courthouse News sounded as if they’d just performed an unpleasant but necessary task. Some expressed a sense of foreboding.
     “The Looney Tunes is over; the chaos begins,” 54-year-old John exclaimed.
     “No comment,” several people said with knowing smirks.
     “I voted for the least of two evils,” said Anne, 60. “At least some of the ballot measures felt good. Question 2 on the zoo. [A ballot measure establishing a dedicated fund to pay the Honolulu Zoo’s expenses.] It’s a lovely old zoo. I used to go there 40 years ago, and I want to take my grand kids.”
     Gus Bechert, a Vietnam War veteran who received disabling injuries jumping out of a helicopter in Cambodia, prefaced his remarks by saying that the federal government has done a lot for him and his family.
     “But Hillary lied,” Bechert said. “And when you lie you cross a line, and I can’t respect you.”
     “I respect a guy who gave $7 million out of his own pocket; Trump gave $7 million to the Wounded Warriors,” Bechert said, lighting a cigarette.
     “I voted straight Republican,” Bechert said.
     After climbing on his scooter and starting to head away, Bechert turned and said he had another thought.
     “A lot of men who served would prefer it was not a woman who had to make the nuclear call. That’s important. Write that down,” he said.
     People exited the side door of the cafeteria in drips and drabs, after an hour or less of waiting.
     “It feels kind of gloomy, like the day,” said 43-year old Natalie. “My nine year old said ‘I’m scared it’s election day.’ I guess he’s seen the news. But I guess we feel comfortable out here in Hawaii, away from everything.”
     Few surprises are expected in Hawaii today. Seventy percent of registered voters cast their ballot for the Democrats in the 2012 presidential election, and they are expected to do the same this year.
     Incumbent Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz is expected to retain his seat, as is Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.Colleen Hanabusa, another Democrat, is expected to reclaim her old congressional seat.
     
     3:36 p.m.
     
     NORTH CAROLINA (CN) – In Charlotte, North Carolina, the parking lot outside the Oasis Shrine Temple-The Sands, a local polling place, was jammed with vehicles by 8:20 a.m., but voting inside was proceeding smoothly, with no lines to speak of.
     One poll worker said there had been a large crowd when the polls opened, but that early voting probably reduced the numbers overall.
     One woman who declined to give her name said she thought that the recent campaigns were “troubling”, both nationally and locally, and that this presidential election had “embarrassed us in the world.”
     Another voter, David Campbell, 60, said he was voting for Donald Trump, but this had been the most difficult election for him to decide, both presidential and down-ballot, that he could remember.
     
     3:43 p.m.
     
     GEORGIA (CN) – Steven Peterson, 33, said the choice between Democratic Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump makes this presidential election “not really an election.”
  

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