A century of wisdom at the polls
After 102 years on this earth, after a life as an art teacher and a store owner, after seeing war and a Depression and presidents good and bad, Selma Friedman sees no reason to muffle her opinion. What does this election mean? She'll give you an earful.
She wants to see war ended and schools renewed, for manufacturing to return and women's rights to improve. She worries about health care and climate change and energy and fairness, and stops for only a moment before continuing her litany.
Friedman's first presidential vote was for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. When she voted Tuesday at St. Andrews South, her retirement community in Boca Raton, Fla., she went with a Democrat again, marking President Barack Obama on her ballot with no hesitation.
"He couldn't do it all in four years," she said.
In this vital swing state, Obama's hopes hinged on getting supporters to turn out en masse in Democrat-rich South Florida. And with a higher percentage of seniors than any other state, Florida's 29 electoral votes depend, in part, on older voters' approval.
Around the breakfast table at St. Andrews, supporters of Republican candidate Mitt Romney shook their heads when they considered the past four years. Doris Jacobsen, 76, a retired secretary, couldn't imagine why someone would give Obama their vote again.
"What has he done?" she asked with refrained outrage, a piece of bacon pinched between her fingers.
Friedman has heard those arguments, along with her neighbours' thoughts on tax rates and foreign policy and abortion. She cannot convince them. She is a couple decades older than most here. Maybe, she thinks, it's just youthful ignorance.
Obama deserves a chance to turn things around - voter
A few miles outside of Raleigh, N.C., voters streamed into the Wake County Firearms Education & Training Centre to cast ballots. They lined up along a hallway dominated by posters offering National Rifle Association classes and "ladies handgun leagues." As Jerome Gantt signed in at the registration table, a target stared at him from the wall beyond.
The 34-year-old black independent voted for Republican John McCain four years ago, but not because he did not like Barack Obama.
"I honestly didn't want a black man to be the first president coming into that bad a situation," said Gantt, who works for a pharmaceuticals company.
Gantt is far from happy with how the last four years have turned out. He and his wife, Paquita, were laid off within months of each other. Both are now back at work, and he feels that many who remain unemployed either didn't want to take a step down or move out of their comfort zone.
And, he added: "I don't think four years is enough time really to turn anything around."
Pat Crosswhite couldn't disagree more. The 55-year-old Holly Springs woman thinks Obama, if re-elected, should be impeached over his handling of the consulate attack in Libya. "I think what he started is terrible," said Crosswhite, who does voice-overs for television commercials. "I don't want him to finish it."
Four years ago, Gantt resisted the tug of "history." This time, he favoured giving Obama the chance to live up to his promises.
"I don't feel elation," he said. "Even if Obama wins, I won't go out celebrating tonight and say, `Yes. We won.' Because we won't win until four years from now, when we can see what the results are of his actions."
Voting in the shadow of Sandy
The Big Dipper hangs over Liberty Street as Frank Puzzo arrives to begin his Election Day duties. Just a week ago, rescuers were piloting boats through three feet of water that coursed past Memorial School and throughout this storm-scarred town. Now, it's 28 degrees; the first voters won't arrive for nearly an hour.
But Puzzo - whose apartment still has no heat or hot water, whose car was claimed by storm surge - is the first to arrive to prepare and open the polls.
"This is super important for the future of the country," says Puzzo, an accountant who has been out of work since July.
The people of Little Ferry could be pardoned if they focused purely on their beleaguered present. Some arrived shivering and clearly exhausted, their long-held certainties about shelter and safety deeply shaken. But the future matters to the people lined up at the voting machines in the hallway outside Ms. Kukula's third-grade class.
Agim Coma, a 25-year-old construction worker, is the first voter to arrive, 13 minutes before polls open. The storm claimed his apartment and car.
It's important because it's our day," he said, as Election Day in America got under way here and everywhere. "No matter what happens - hurricanes, tornados - it's our day to vote."