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Mountain Voices On The 2020 Election

More than 4.5 million North Carolinians already have voted  - either in person during early voting or by mail.  That’s more than 95% of all the N.C. voters who cast ballots in 2016. Across BPR’s listening area, more than 50% of registered voters in every county have cast ballots.                                                                                  The BPR news team has been visiting polling sites, talking with voters about what issues are driving them to the polls this year. 

While opinions differ, WNC voters seem to agree on one thing:  this election is pivotal and it is every person’s  responsibility to vote.

"Well, I just want to see some change." 

That's Gerald Dawkins from Asheville as he left the polling site at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center on Livingston Street.   

"We're going through too much from this pandemic to the, weather, to social injustice, the economic – it  gets too much. Well, how much more can we stand?,” asks Dawkins. 

Tytierra Willis from Asheville says she wasn't going to vote at first but then her friend changed her mind. 

"I decided to just do it because of  my friend, Michael Lorenzo, had a whole text message about how it's important to vote, because if we don't vote for the right people, they going to take away all our rights and we don’t want that," says Willis. 

Voter Julia Greer was standing outside of the Henderson County Board of Elections office, and said she had just moved to Hendersonville from California three months ago.

"I am Latino from a 'third world country,’ says Greer. “ I am also an independent and I'm voting for Trump. And I do think that Trump really cares for  Latinos, but he really cares for people doing the right thing and not getting everything for free.” 

Anastasia Walsh lives in Gerton, North Carolina. She says this is one of the most important elections of her lifetime. 

“And I'm here to port a change in government, get back to a more decent and equal and just government,” says Walsh. “And I definitely voted for Biden and Harris. He had, I'm just really happy to be able to exercise my right and I hope we get a landslide, victory” 

“I think that a lot more people want to be a part of something more than just themselves this year. "That’s junior Serenity Cortes at Western Carolina University.

“I’m a health sciences student so I really want to push for healthcare reform. I think that I have a good idea who I want to vote for to get what I want to see in terms of healthcare reform in the next 4 years.”

Matthew Straud is a sophomore at Western Carolina, he’s from Lancaster, South Carolina. “I guess some of the issues I’m concerned about are climate change and more economic issues like taxes and gun rights,” says Straud.

For Nadia Marshall, a red shirt sophomore at Western, being a part of democracy feels a lot like being part of the university’s basketball team. “We are all being one and coming together since COVID is out. So, we are all trying to do something good and vote - and I feel like it’s good to vote as well,” says Marshall.

Alex Gary, WCU Director of Athletics says that events on campus pushed the student athletes to want to learn more about the history of voting rights. Student athletes also led the #WheeUnited rally on campus.

“Using your voice through voting in our democratic process is one thing, but using your vote to show appreciation and respect for those who suffered to help you have the opportunity is even more satisfying to some of our student-athletes,” says Gary in an email. 

"What made you want to come out and vote today?" asks BPR. 

"I didn't have a choice, " says Darrin Burch from Franklin. He says he’s worried about the future of America if Donald Trump is not re-elected.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want to work and just want a handout. I think its time to get back to American values. Hard work never hurt anybody,” says Burch. “I got my straight R’s in there.”

Linda Herman in Franklin agrees. She has been campaigning for the Macon County Republican Party at the polls.

“I believe in law and order. I’m really annoyed with all of the protests and all of the destruction. And I think that Donald Trump is the answer and can do the best job,” says Herman.

On the other side in Franklin are Saisa Maloney and her son Bentley, who are campaigning for the Democratic Party.

“We want to get the pandemic wrapped up, we want good leadership and we want a lot of stuff don’t we, buddy?” asks Malloney. Bentley agrees. He says he’s tired of wearing a mask to Cartoogechaye Elementary School.

Jenna Snell from Franklin says she isn't invested in politics but she believes in the importance of voting.

"Especially being a woman, making sure I have the right to vote and honoring that since they did so much back in the day. And it just, I feel like just part of our country in history and of it all.

Unlike many Americans, Snell says she still sees the middle ground. 

"I'm not very political in my sense, but as I'm getting older, I'm only 22," says Snell. "So, learning more about it and everything. It's kind of interesting to see both sides and I kind of relate to both in different ways.” 

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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