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Voters Across America Weigh In On The End Of The 2016 Campaign


It's Election Day. Millions of Americans have voted already, and millions more are at the polls today.

KIM CLAY: Our right to vote is one of those rights that our ancestors died for.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Benghazi, abortion, gay marriage - but he's not a politician either, and that probably swung me over.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I voted for Hillary Clinton, and I came in my pantsuit. And I love it (laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Donald Trump's my man, and he's got America's back.

CORNISH: NPR is spread out across the country, talking to voters. And we're going to check in with a few of our reporters now. We're going to begin with Don Gonyea in rural Pennsylvania. So, Don, exactly where are you, and what are you hearing from voters?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I've been driving around a lot of those winding, two-lane roads. The fall colors are fading, but the Donald Trump signs are at peak. I mean this is Donald Trump country out here. I am in far, far southwest Pennsylvania. The fact that there are so many yard signs has prompted people to tell me that that's evidence the polls are wrong or that they're biased.

There is some belief, if not confidence, that Trump can score an upset in this blue state. So it's very Republican out here but with lots of working-class Democrats who used to work in steel. Maybe they still work in coal. Trump needs a really big turnout here to offset the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia which feels a world away from here.

So, Audie, it's 7:00 a.m. As polls opened in Westmoreland County, I talked to voters who were up and in line early. Here's what Trump supporter Randy Roble (ph), a 64-year-old retired nurse told me.

RANDY ROBLE: I have no friends that voted for Clinton.


ROBLE: None. I don't know how she's going to bring this country together because there's a lot of divide right now.

GONYEA: Can she do anything to reach out to you?

ROBLE: I don't think so.

GONYEA: So he's very pessimistic about what a President Clinton would mean for him.

CORNISH: But it's interesting, Don, because you put this kind of question to people who voted for both candidates, right? I mean essentially, what are you going to do if your candidate doesn't win? What were you hearing?

GONYEA: I asked that of everybody. First I was surprised by what I heard. A Clinton supporter said of Trump, I'll have to support him reluctantly. A Trump supporter said, well, you just graciously accept whoever wins because they are our president.

But one Trump supporter told me - and this was common - he said he hopes the investigations and grand jury and everything else continue into her emails.

CORNISH: Now, I want to go next to Charleston, S.C., and NPR's Debbie Elliott. Debbie, who were you out with today?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Well, I'm downtown, so I stopped at a charter school. That was the polling site for several precincts here. It was around lunch hour, and there was a line stretching about a block. And it was a very diverse group of voters here. And the overwhelming sentiment was that everybody was ready to have this election behind them. Everyone was really frustrated with their - the tone of this campaign and said that maybe after today, you know, we - they could turn a corner and not have to listen to it anymore.

I spoke with Kim Clay (ph). She was a middle-aged African-American woman who came to the polls with her two adult daughters. She's the one we heard earlier saying, you know, the right to vote is sacred because our ancestors died for this. And here's how she voted.

CLAY: Hillary Clinton - absolutely. With so much pride, I did. I'm happy just saying her name. I can't wait till the night when I can say Madam President.

CORNISH: And Debbie, I...

ELLIOTT: Now, Clay is a...

CORNISH: Oh, go ahead.

ELLIOTT: Oh, she's a retired welder. So she was really enthusiastic about the prospect of the first woman president 'cause she sort of saw herself in a role of an - a non-traditional job as well.

But she said she was really disheartened about what she's hearing during this campaign from some of Donald Trump's supporters whom she says feel like they have exclusive ownership of the country, she said, and treat others like second-class citizens. Here's what she said.

CLAY: Donald Trump gave them the right and the audacity to speak how they feel. And I've lived through that. And I have grandkids, and I will fight to the death before my grandkids have to live that life again.

CORNISH: Now, Debbie, this is an African-American woman - obviously is excited about Hillary Clinton. But South Carolina is essentially a red state, right?

ELLIOTT: Yes, and that's not expected to change today. I'm in the city where Hillary Clinton has a little more support. But overall, in rural areas of South Carolina - very conservative and still considered a conservative state.

CORNISH: Now, finally I want to go to NPR's John Burnett. He visited south Texas where he's been talking with Latino voters, some unemployed oilfield workers and ranchers. And John, we've been hearing a lot about Texas this election year surprisingly. What have you been hearing?

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Audie. Well, I mean history and the latest polls are telling us that Trump is still heavily favored in this super conservative state. And - but here, as across the country, there has been this record early vote, a big turnout among the Hispanics. They're saying 25 percent higher in the 20 big Texas cities than in 2012. The question - could they flip Texas - that's a real long shot.

But I wanted to go to one of those heavily Hispanic regions this morning. And so I chose Frio County, which is an hour southwest of San Antonio. It's about 25 percent Hispanic, typically goes Democrat, went for Obama four years ago. And it was interesting because the Latino voters I spoke to weren't that crazy about Hillary Clinton. They said as Catholics, they really are not crazy about her promotion of abortion rights. But they were really motivated by their deep dislike of Donald Trump. Let's hear from Guadalupe Leal (ph). She's a disabled woman in her 60s.

GUADALUPE LEAL: To me, I feel like he's racist not just with Hispanics but also with African-Americans and the low-income people.

BURNETT: So that's what Guadaloupe Leal had to say.

CORNISH: Now, what did you hear from Trump supporters?

BURNETT: Well, almost all the white voters I talked to were in the town of Bigfoot, and there were also some Mexican-Americans in the county seat of Frio County, which is Pearsall. It's part of the Eagle Ford shale oil and gas field which has really fallen on hard times.

You can drive around Pearsall, and you can see signs that say oil field workers for Trump. And it's interesting 'cause in south Texas, a lot of oil fields are Latino. So I met an unemployed oil field worker named Amador Luis (ph). He says he's been out of a job for nine months. He just got rehired.

AMADOR LUIS: Trump is one that's in favor of the oil field, not like his opponent. I work in the oil field, and a lot of people are saying that she's one to turn off the pumps. And that's something that we don't want. Oil is something that we live on, and you know, that's the way these small towns prosper.

BURNETT: So you heard it. This is one of the reasons why we expect Texas to stay red tonight, Audie.

CORNISH: John, before I let you go, I want to ask this question because the conversation from Donald Trump about, quote, unquote, "the wall" and the border issue's played so much in this election. Did you hear any supporters talking about that?

BURNETT: Yes, people all the time talk about illegal immigration and that, you know, he's convinced them that jobs are being lost in Texas and that, you know, there is no border. It really - this state used to be sort of moderate on illegal immigration, very different from Arizona and California. But it's gotten a very hard-edge now I think in part because of the strident tone that Donald Trump has taken.

CORNISH: That's NPR's John Burnett in Texas, Debbie Elliott in South Carolina and Don Gonyea in Pennsylvania. Thanks to you all.

GONYEA: You're welcome.

ELLIOTT: Glad to do it.

BURNETT: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
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