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What Inspired Californians to Vote — And What They Thought of Voting

Via Kyle Akin on Tiny Post.

More than 13 million Californians voted on Nov. 6, according to the secretary of state’s office (when factoring in the uncounted ballots). For Amelia True, her vote reflected her sense of responsibility to those who fought for women’s voting rights.

“I feel connected to my nation when I cast my vote,” she wrote in a comment on KQED’s Facebook page. “I vote because my ancestors fought tirelessly so that I could have just as much of a deciding voice about the future of my country as a man. I vote for my great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters.”

Robert Ashton of San Rafael also commented that his family inspired him to vote.

“My WW II father (told me) me when I was eight, as he took me to the polls with him, that this — exerting our right to vote — is what we owe to those who were sacrificed in battle to preserve that right,” he wrote.

During the past few months — over a variety of projects — KQED has interviewed dozens of Californians about voting. We also asked users of the Palo Alto-based mobile app Tiny Post to share their inspiration for voting in a photograph. On Election Day we heard from more than 100 Californians about their voting experiences.

Most of the comments about Bay Area polling places were positive.

“Overall the experience was very easy, smooth, and fast,” wrote Jennifer Koth of Livermore. “There was no wait and I felt the volunteers were personable but not pushy. I also felt good because I brought a piece of paper in listing how I wanted to vote on the issues happening in my area.”

Click on the polling locations in the map below to read what other area residents had to say about voting.

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4 Ways You Know You’re in California on Election Day

A multilingual "Vote here" sign is displayed as a woman pushes a stroller out of the voting room at Christ Lutheran Church in Monterey Park, Los Angeles. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

It can be disheartening to be a Californian on Election Day. Sure, California has 10 percent of the country’s total electoral votes. But it it often seems to get treated like an afterthought by the media. Pundits don’t use the same breathless excitement to describe the Golden State as they do, say, Ohio. And there’s typically no surprise as to which presidential candidate the state will support.

So it’s no surprise that California may have mixed emotions about today. We asked our Facebook followers how they know it’s election day in California. Here’s what they said.

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A Snapshot of Bay Area Voters’ Experiences

A record number of Californians are registered to vote in Tuesday’s election, and we have invited you to let us know how your voting experience went. Many of you responded both online and by phone calls.

UPDATE 7: 39 p.m.: We’ve received nearly 100 submissions from voters throughout California. Here are some of their stories:

  • Elaine Connolly voted at Fire Station 26 in Castro Valley: “Night time, at the Lucille entrance no lights, no flags or bunting or signs to alert people of a voting place though it was being held in the gym. The volunteers weren’t helpful, gave me wrong directions, delays because I was put at wrong table which couldn’t communicate with the correct table. When asked to speak with the ‘boss’ was told she wasn’t in attendance, she’d gone.”
  • Debi Cortez voted on La Playa Street in San Francisco: “No wait at all the staff were smiling and greeted me as I came in. They seemed well organized and eager to help and very nice. They gave my granddaughter a sticker and she was excited.”
  • Michael Accinno voted at the Davis Senior Center: “I arrived at my polling station at 7:15 a.m. shortly after it opened, and there was little to no wait. I was in and out within 5 minutes- all in all, it was a breeze.”
  • Rachael Maier voted on California Street in San Francisco: “I was in and out in a matter of 10 minutes. The volunteers were nice, helpful, and really gracious when some not-so-pleasant voters tried giving them a hard time (‘Why is there no American flag out front? That’s WRONG!’)

Photo by Karl Jagbandhansingh

UPDATE 3:33 p.m.: From KQED’s Aarti Shahani: Karl Jagbandhansingh said he voted at Oakland’s Sojourner Truth Manor, 6015 Martin Luther King Jr Way. He said the only machine that counts ballots at this voting station stopped working around 12:45 p.m. One poll worker – who said he was the inspector – started stacking ballots on top of the machine. Jagbandhansingh said he saw the stack get knocked over and ballots strewn on the floor.

When Jagbandhansingh left, around 1:45 p.m., a woman who was the supervisor just began getting the counting machine to work.

Original post:

A sample of the online responses we’ve received so far:

  • Rebecca Petzel of San Francisco described her experience as “positive,” adding “No wait. Lots of space to accomodate many voters at once. I could take my time in the voting ‘booth’ without feeling like I was holding up other voters. Great job San Francisco!”
  • Tracy Anne Sena, also of San Francisco had quite a different experience. “As I was waiting to sign in, a poll worker was on the phone reporting that many of the names in the middle of the alphabet on the voter roll were missing. I didn’t ask a followup question as she was still on the phone as I finished voting. (Thankfully, I am an ‘S’ and not affected.)
  • Gayle Strang of Fremont said her polling place is “in my living room; I voted by absentee mail in ballot.” She says absentee voting gave her “time to research and discuss with my family.”

We also asked if voters experiences had been generally positive or negative. Our colleagues at KPCC have mapped the responses we received so far by polling place. The red markers are negative experiences, the green are positive experiences.

In addition, we had some compelling stories left by voicemail and you can listen here:

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How Young Voters Can Surprise You

San Francisco State University student Dariel Maxwell discusses the election with KQED's Lillian Mongeau. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

by Ian Hill and Lillian Mongeau

“I don’t know much about the candidates.” “I haven’t been following the races.”  “I’m not really able to talk about the election.”

Typically, those were the responses we first heard when we approached students on Bay Area college campuses for the “Voices of Young Voters” project where we interviewed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 about politics, the election and the role of government in their lives.

When students told us they hadn’t been following the election, we pushed them a little bit. We said we wanted to hear from a variety of students, not just those with an interest in politics.

That’s when they would often surprise us.

We found that many of the 50 students we interviewed were well-informed on the challenges facing the country. They had educated opinions on topics ranging from healthcare to youth obesity to immigration, and they were passionate about many issues. Even those who insisted they “knew nothing” about the election had clearly spent time thinking about what they thought the government should and shouldn’t be doing. Continue reading

A Breeze or a Nightmare: What Was Your Voting Experience Like?

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Polling places around the state could be crowded today, as a record number of Californians — more than 18 million — are registered to vote. We want to know what it’s like at your polling location.

How long is the wait? Are the volunteers helpful? Is anything at your polling place preventing you from voting? Is it easier than you expected?

We want to hear from voters throughout California. Your stories can help inform election coverage for KQED in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles. Click here for KPCC’s election coverage.

You can share your story by calling 1-415-553-8455 or emailing community@kqed.org. You can also describe your voting experience by filling out the form below and clicking submit.

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5 Reasons to Switch Political Parties

A young man considers his options before registering to vote in October at San Francisco State University. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED

Last week we profiled two area residents who have switched political parties: a former Republican who said he’d be voting for President Obama on Tuesday and a former Democrat who is now a registered member of the GOP. As you might expect in a contentious election year, their stories generated some heated comments in our online forums (as well as a few emails and phone calls).

That led us to wonder: if there is such a significant and widening ideological divide in the country, what would it take for other area voters to switch political parties?

To help us answer that question we turned to our Facebook followers and asked them to finish this sentence: “I would switch political parties if…”

Some of the responses we received were humorous, others enlightening. But in general, we heard five answers.

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What Isn’t Government For?

Photo by Tom Ray/Flickr

Throughout this election year KQED has been reporting on the responsibilities of government and the role it plays in the lives of Americans. We’ve spoken to young voters about their opinions of government for our “Voices of Young Voters” project; we’ve shared KQED listeners’ thoughts on government through our essay series, Perspectives; and this spring we asked you what you wanted from your elected officials.

It’s part of our effort to explore the question of what is government for. That’s the theme for our election coverage this year, and it’s a topic that was discussed again this morning on KQED’s Forum.

But of course, that’s not the only question voters will be considering when they head to the polls Nov. 6. They’ll also be thinking about what government shouldn’t be doing.

So we decided to see what our Facebook followers thought government isn’t for.

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Political Switcher: Republican Since Childhood, Voting for Obama

Mark Patrosso re-registering. (Photo courtesy Mark Patrosso)

By Lisa Morehouse

We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…

Republican to voting for Obama below, and Democrat to Republican here.

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The first thing you should know about Mark Patrosso is that he was very involved in the Republican Party for a very long time. At just 9-years-old, he watched the entire 1964 Republican Convention when Barry Goldwater was nominated — even though his parents weren’t interested in politics.

If anything, Patrosso should have been a Democratic kid. He spent his childhood in East Detroit, a working-class Democratic suburb of the Motor City. In junior high, he says other kids probably thought he was a little weird when he volunteered to fill a display case with information on presidential candidate Richard Nixon. “I remember going into the local Nixon headquarters, picking up buttons, reading profiles,” Patrosso recalls.

Patrosso was just crazy for politics. “I probably actually read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in junior high and high school, or referred back just to understand what they really meant,” he says. “I’m not sure that my peers even cared.”
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Party Switcher: Raised a Democrat, Now a Republican

By Lisa Morehouse

(Lisa Morehouse: KQED)

Virginia Wolters says she was baptized a Catholic and a Democrat. After 9-11, her quest to learn more about U.S. foreign policy led to more political inquiries and a discovery that she probably was a conservative all along. (Lisa Morehouse: KQED)

We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…

Democrat to Republican below, and Republican to Obama voter here.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

For more than 30 years, Novato resident Virginia Wolters was perfectly happy being a Democrat. Wolters grew up in a family full of union members outside of Chicago. She says she was baptized a Catholic — and a Democrat.

Though she doesn’t recall anyone saying anything specifically derisive about Republicans, she certainly understood how those around her felt. “It looked like the Democrats were the nice people,” she says. “Mom and Dad were nice, our friends were nice. Over the years I got the impression that Republicans were rich and evil.”

For Wolters, that all changed on September 11, 2001.

Those were the Kennedy years. Although she was still a child, Wolters was captivated by Jackie and John’s good looks — and the optimism around his campaign. Even the theme song for JFK’s campaign was the tune “High Hopes.” But as an adult, her political feelings lay dormant for years before springing back to life in 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for president. “I really related to the whole Clinton mystique,” Wolters says. Continue reading

Voice of a Young Voter: How Much is Too Much National Security?

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives?

KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Tatiana McBraun

Young voters have a unique perspective on national security. Those younger than 30 were children or teenagers on Sept. 11 and grew up hearing about terrorist threats. But Tatiana McBraun, a political science major at San Jose State, recently told KQED’s Lillian Mongeau she feels too much security can be a bad thing.

McBraun also discussed her religion, and noted that while she and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are both Mormon, it doesn’t mean he has her vote.

I think (the candidates) place too much importance on security. They’re always collecting information from us and I don’t know why. For example, going to the airport and not wanting to go through the screening process, and then oh, I’m a bad person because I don’t support security.

I just wish we had a little more freedom as citizens because I feel like slowly but surely our liberties are kind of being taken away from us.

I’m Mormon and a lot of people think that just because you’re Mormon, you’re going to vote for a Mormon president, but I don’t necessarily feel that he is the best of the two candidates.

When I think about Romney and I think about international relations, I couldn’t picture him going overseas and conducting business with them and them relating to him. So, I’m going to go for Barack Obama Because…I still believe that he can make changes slowly but surely.

Click play on the audio clip below to hear Tatiana McBraun.