When voter Betsy Winsett cast an early ballot for Hillary Clinton, she did so with as much exhaustion as exhilaration. “I am so ready for this to be over,” Winsett, a semi-retired business owner in Del Mar, California, said.
And though John Barnes, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, retiree, would disagree vehemently with her politics, he seconds the sentiment. Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Barnes, who voted early for Donald Trump, said that he’ll stay mad at a neighbor who’s a Clinton supporter for just one day.
“Then, we all have to move on,” he said.
The campaign for the White House — seemingly interminable and bitterly divisive — has at last reached the eve of decision-making. But across the country, Winsett, Barnes and millions of other Americans continue to arrive at early polling sites, determined to play their part, despite misgivings about the outcome.
In Wakarusa, Kansas, machine operator Edwin Sedam said his experience as a Marine in Afghanistan was central to his decision Monday to vote for Trump.
“I’ve seen good men killed … maimed. I’ve seen young kids come home completely screwed up,” and some candidates, he said without naming them, have allowed service personnel to “die needlessly. … That’s greatly influenced how I’m going to vote because it hits home for me.”
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, though, Russell Allen, a 22-year veteran of the Navy, said he voted for Clinton because he believes she would be better at keeping the country safe and working with U.S. allies.
“I feel like she has the background, she has the experience, she has the ability to reach across to our allies in Europe and around the world to keep our country safe, and I don’t believe that the other candidate has that ability, nor do I trust him to create those kinds of unions,” Allen said.
By Monday, at least 43.2 million people had cast early ballots by mail or at polling stations, according to Associated Press data, with records in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
The heavy turnout was evident Monday in a number of places, including Bismarck, North Dakota, where waits of an hour or more at the county’s only early polling precinct convinced some voters to give up and make plans to return Tuesday.
“I thought I could come today and save time,” said Natalie Krein, 42, a retail manager who was willing to wait. “I’m really surprised by the turnout.”
Many early voters explained choices based not just on support for one candidate, but rejection of the other.
“I was anti-Trump because I can’t support someone who has promoted hate,” said Roz Booker, 56, a Clinton backer in Tallahassee, Florida who joined members of her church Sunday at a “Souls to the Polls” event to promote turnout.
Danessa Decosta, 20, of Albuquerque, said she voted for Trump “just because I don’t agree with Hillary’s (position on) abortion and her lies.”
The split in public opinion, and the animosity the campaign has fueled, won’t be easily resolved, said Michelle Broadnax, 48, a teacher and entrepreneur in Sacramento.
“The division is real. And so I’m really curious to see what and how America’s going to get past this,” said Broadnax who voted early for Clinton last week. “How do we come back together again, and how do we heal after so much?”
Associated Press writers Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jonathan Cooper in Sacramento, Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida, John Hanna in Wakarusa, Kansas, James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota and Julie Watson in Del Mar, California contributed to this story.