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Southern California Voters Share What's Driving Them To The Polls


Orange County, Calif., is another place to watch tonight. There are four closely contested House seats in the Southern California county. NPR's Nathan Rott has been visiting polling places there today to see what's driving voters to the polls.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The sun was still trying to cut its way through a thin, gray marine layer when Cindy Bertram and Richard McCarthy had finished voting this morning. They were the second and third people in line at this Huntington Beach polling station. Bertram says she couldn't sleep last night.

CINDY BERTRAM: I kind of feel the same way I did two years ago. I feel this is as important.

RICHARD MCCARTHY: Yeah, it's - I've always voted, but this one is different.

ROTT: Early voting numbers in Orange County are breaking records this year. A number of polling places like this one had lines formed outside before they had even opened at 7.

BERTRAM: That's a good sign that people are starting to pay attention and realize that they can help make change.

ROTT: Neither Bertram nor McCarthy is happy with the current state of politics - the division, the partisanship, the rhetoric - and neither is happy with the president. That's true to some degree for some of the conservative voters here as well. Here's Sheryl and Reine Klein.

SHERYL KLEIN: We are Republican, although with a touch of liberal in us so...

REINE KLEIN: Speak for yourself (laughter).

S. KLEIN: Well, yeah.


S. KLEIN: I'm kind of somewhere in the middle, but, you know, while I don't personally care for the man at all or what - his craziness, he's done some good stuff.

ROTT: They point to Trump's handling of the economy and increases in military spending. The economy is also a major driver for Gene Egan.

GENE EGAN: I'm hoping for a red wave. I'm hoping for - I'm hoping against hope here in California.

ROTT: Pollsters and pundits here in Southern California say four House races in Orange County are so close they're toss-ups. In House District 48 where we are now, it's Democrat Harley Rouda against the 30-year incumbent Republican Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher has been one of President Trump's staunchest defenders in Congress, a stance that could make or break his re-election campaign. And while Egan, like some of the early Republican voters that you'd heard from, isn't a fan of the president as a person, he doesn't want to see Trump's agenda disrupted.

EGAN: I'm happy to see what's happening in the courts to give it balance, what the legislation's been able to do with the economy, and so I want to see those remain in place.

ROTT: Now, most of the voices here are those of white voters, but Orange County's demographics are changing, which is why some think this traditional Republican stronghold might be now up for grabs. Up the road next to some tennis courts, a polling station in Fountain Valley more accurately represents the future of this county. There are growing numbers of Latino and Asian voters. One of them is Linh Li who wants Congress to take on different issues than it's been focusing on in recent years.

LINH LI: The one concern me mostly - the health care and the environment. I think that get ignored right now (laughter).

ROTT: With all the other...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: With everything else.

LI: Yes, yes.

ROTT: He hopes that changes after this election. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Orange County, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.

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