From staff reports
Today, America will finish voting.
More Americans than ever before will have voted in what is perhaps the most emotional election in generations.
Many voters on both sides describe anxiety or fear over the election process and outcome even if they see their chosen candidate as flawed.
We talked to a dozen voters in the Inland Northwest to describe how they came to decide their choice for president.
‘He’s come through with what he said’
Carol Snyder has been a Donald Trump supporter since the day in 2015 when he rode down the escalator to announce his presidential campaign. On Sunday, she was near the front of a GOP motorcade, dubbed the Trump Train, driving around Spokane to show support for his second term.
The thing that impressed her most five years ago was that Trump was not a politician, she said recently. “I thought a successful businessman is what we needed, not a corrupt politician.”
She stuck with Trump as he defeated other Republican hopefuls in the 2016 primaries and through his first term. She isn’t about to desert him now.
“He’s come through with what he said,” the 69-year-old Veradale resident said. She particularly likes his strong stance on law and order, with support for law enforcement and the Second Amendment.
A member of the Well Armed Woman’s organization, Snyder enjoys target shooting and worries a Biden administration would trample on her gun rights.
She also likes Trump’s long-standing promise to “drain the swamp” of political corruption in Washington, D.C. The swamp still needs draining, but she doesn’t fault him for that.
“I wasn’t surprised because you don’t know who was ‘the swamp’ right away. It takes a while to see who is corrupt,” she said.
Snyder has joined other Trump supporters on pedestrian overpasses to Interstate 90, waving signs for their candidate. The vast majority of drivers – maybe nine of 10 she estimates – honk, wave or give them the thumbs -up, while some of the others might raise a different finger. It’s a sign, she said, Trump has more support than the polls suggest.
“A lot of people don’t want to say they are for Trump, because of the backlash,” she said.
Because of that, she expects to see Trump beating the predictions again this year, adding: “I just think the next four years will even be better.”
– Jim Camden
‘Why wasn’t this a priority before?’
Matthew Pleasants, an enrolled member of the Colville Tribes, said he voted for Biden because of what he sees as Trump’s poor leadership during the pandemic and what’s at stake for tribal nations, including health care, the economy and environment.
“We are facing some of the most historic numbers of economic downturn that we’ve seen in a long time, and the handling of this pandemic wasn’t exactly the best approach,” Pleasants said. “It is a tough challenge, but that’s what leadership is supposed to do, make those hard decisions when it comes down to it.”
Pleasants, 30, lives in Coulee Dam on the Colville Reservation and works on economic development in the Colville Tribes’ planning department. He said Trump unveiling a plan for Native Americans on Oct. 20 – after nearly four years in office – underscored that the president hasn’t made tribal nations a priority.
“I feel that a lot is a stake, especially for tribal nations,” he said. “We’re in his fourth year and we’re just now starting to see something for tribal nations? It does bring up a little red flag, like why wasn’t this a priority before, especially when Natives have been around forever?”
Although Trump has touted the $8 billion tribes received in coronavirus relief funds from Congress in March, the White House reportedly resisted giving tribes any direct relief money, before negotiators settled on a lower figure than tribal leaders had requested.
“When COVID hit, the tribes really had to fight back and push for us to get those CARES (Act) dollars. It just leaves a little bad taste in our mouths and gives me some real anxiety (about) the future if he was to be reelected.”
“We’re seeing the rollback of EPA protections, which, for the Colville Tribes specifically, that’s huge for us,” he said. “We’re 1.4 million acres and one of our main resources is our water, and our timber, and being able to regulate that.”
– Orion Donovan-Smith
Actions more important than words
Jaime Baird is a reluctant Trump voter this year after parting ways with the Republican Party in 2016.
Baird, 33, lives in Liberty Lake with her husband and a corgi after moving to the area from North Carolina five years ago.
In college she was a Republican but in 2016 she became an independent, leaning more Libertarian mainly because she didn’t like Trump and his lack of voting record.
“This election, I did decide for Trump. It was hard but made the decision,” Baird said. “I have almost four years of a record to examine and while I still don’t like what he says most of the time, actions do speak louder than words.”
The two things that made Baird “get off of the political fence,” were Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and “mobs” attacking Republican candidates.
“No one knew what to do,” Baird said of the COVID-19 pandemic but she said she does not support the government “arbitrarily” deciding what businesses are essential.
Then in August when U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was ”attacked by an angry mob” chanting “say her name” when Paul was one of the sponsors of the bill to end no -knock warrants, Baird said she jumped off the fence.
“This mob who claims to be woke, didn’t even know that he was the one who was championing that in Congress,” Baird said. “I just don’t want to live in an America that’s run by mob rule.”
In the nearly four years Trump has been president, Baird said she has liked the policies he has supported, like ending minimum mandatory sentences, not getting the United States involved in new military conflicts, and appointing “originalists” to the Supreme Court and other lower courts.
As a former middle school English and social studies teacher, Baird also supports school choice.
“Donald Trump championed school choice, which is very near and dear to me,” Baird said. “I’ve seen our educational system fail my students and I’ve seen school choice save those same kids.”
Low unemployment numbers and a strong pre-COVID economy were also important factors for Baird, she said.
“I think that once this has shifted he can get us back there and it’s not due to his business acumen which is questionable but it’s due to the policies that he is supporting,” Baird said.
– Emma Epperly
Worried about a Trump defeat; more worried about a Trump win
In her cabin in the mountains of Boundary County, Fay Morris worries about the future.
“I can’t leave the country without knowing we get through it all,” she said.
Asked to clarify, she said she’s referring to her age; she’s not making a trip abroad.
“I’m 94,” Morris said. “I won’t die until I know how this comes out.”
Four years ago, Morris wrote in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president in the November election, knowing her Democratic vote wouldn’t count for much in Idaho.
Although she backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the primaries this year, she’s voting for Biden .
“I wish the Democrats would get smart enough to nominate a real vote-getter, someone who really moves people,” said Morris, a retired ski instructor. “I will support Joe Biden, but with not necessarily a song in my heart, so to speak.”
She fears both a Trump win or a Trump loss.
“If he wins, I’ll just about give up. If there are enough people in the country to elect that homicidal maniac, it will be pretty defeating,” she said. “It shouldn’t even be close.”
But she also doesn’t trust Trump to accept defeat gracefully.
“I worry very tremendously about the time after we defeat Trump, which I hope and pray we do,” she said. “He is a man of revenge.”
– Jonathan Brunt
An erosion of Second Amendment rights?
If Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris win the election, gun store and shooting range owner Robin Ball said her business could be in jeopardy.
Ball, a long -time member of the local GOP and a former party chair, said she plans to vote for Donald Trump because she fears Biden could make it far more difficult to purchase a gun and make the process more complicated. She said she specifically worries about Biden’s and Harris’ support of repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers from civil liability. She argued the people who buy firearms and use them to commit violent acts should be held responsible, not those who made the firearms or other people who own guns.
“I drive a Ford and if I drink and drive and kill somebody with my Ford, and my neighbor has a Ford, it doesn’t make them responsible,” she said. “It’s the person behind the wheel. It’s the same thing for the person behind the trigger. The responsibility belongs in the hands of the user of that product, not the manufacturer.”
Ball said she’s concerned that a Biden and Harris win could empower both Congress and state Legislatures to pursue more gun control measures, which could complicate her business, limit what she can sell and how long she has to wait to sell a gun to someone who wants to buy it.
“That could change the landscape dramatically if they win the bid for the White House,” she said. “So obviously, I’m a Trump supporter.”
– Rebecca White
‘Supporter of unions and working people’
For Scott Holstrom, support for Biden boils down to something elemental.
He’s a good union man – currently he’s the business manager and secretary treasurer of the local Laborer’s Union – and Biden “has always been a big supporter of unions and working people.”
Holstrom, 52, supported Biden when the Democratic field was crowded and was happy when he won the nomination. The former vice president has been a longtime supporter of Davis-Bacon, the federal law that requires workers be paid a “prevailing wage” for public works projects, he said.
The law helps all workers, union and nonunion, by setting better wages on those projects, he said: “It affects all working, middle-class Americans.”
Holstrom is worried about the nation’s health care system and critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also skeptical of Trump’s promises to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
“He keeps talking about a plan, yet we haven’t seen anything,” he said. “Biden has a plan.”
If Trump gets a second term, Holmstrom said working people will have to be prepared to protect their wages, health care, pensions and other benefits. Sometimes you have to be ready to play a defensive game rather than an offensive game, he said.
Beyond specific issues, however, Holmstrom is worried about the national mood, which he sees as more contentious than it has been for decades.
“I think the country is more divided than it has been since the ’60s,” he said. “Everybody has a right to their opinion, but opinions should be based on facts.”
He’s hoping for more unity after the election’s over: “I’d like to see a country like our forefathers wanted – more united than divided, where people can thrive and prosper and not just survive.”
- Jim Camden
A vote for Trump for a strong economy
For the last couple of years retired Spokane insurance agent Curt Fackler has been traveling the country with his wife.
What they saw in their travels was a country that was prospering, Fackler said. And that’s a big reason why he voted for Trump.
“I’ve just been real happy with how things are going,” said Fackler, speaking from Coconino National Forest in Arizona on Monday. “Up until the whole COVID thing, the economy was going great.”
In 2019, the Facklers hiked 1,700 miles of the Appalachian Trial. This year, they planned to be back in Spokane as camp hosts at Bowl and Pitcher campground at Riverside State Park. That was interrupted by the pandemic, and they spent four months at an RV park north of Spokane until state parks reopened.
Fackler said Trump has handled the pandemic about as well as possible. He said Trump was right to leave decisions on mandates and closures to the states because what’s happening in one place is probably much different in others.
“You can’t have one national standard to do everything,” Fackler said.
Fackler has faith in the fairness of Washington’s election system. When he was active in the Spokane County Republican Party he saw the establishment of Washington’s vote-by-mail system, and that process has been perfected over many years, he said. Fackler, however, is worried about the rush in other states to boost mail-in voting.
“I have great confidence in Spokane County,” Fackler said. “In the rest of the nation, I don’t.”
He’s saddened that possible unrest sparked by election results is thought to be so serious that business owners in some cities are boarding up windows.
So, he’s hoping the winner is declared relatively fast and by enough votes that results are not in dispute.
“I hope that we really do know one way or another,” he said.
– Jonathan Brunt
Naghmana Ahmed-Sherazi’s vote for Biden and Harris will be the first time she’s voted in a presidential election.
Ahmed-Sherazi, an immigrant from Pakistan, became a naturalized citizen in 2018 and one of her first actions was to file to run for City Council. The first time she voted, she voted for herself. She is now a community organizer behind the Muslims for Community, Action, and Support and said she fears another Trump victory could exacerbate the xenophobia and divisiveness in the country, or empower white supremacists and militia groups.
“It is scary, but that makes me more resolute,” she said. “I cannot live my life being scared.”
She said she has also been appalled by some of the atrocities that have been committed under the Trump administration including putting immigrant children in cages and separating children at the border from their parents.
“These things are horrible,” she said. “Just look at them and imagine if they were your own children.”
Ahmed-Sherazi said she also planned to support Democratic candidates down the ballot and support women who are leading in Washington, such as state Supreme Court Justices Raquel Montoya-Lewis and Justice G. Helen Whitener.
– Rebecca White
A vote against a two-party system
Jacob Hersh is a first-time voter, and he’s using his vote this election as a protest.
Hersh, a political science sophomore at Washington State University, is voting for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen to make a point. Hersh is also the president at WSU’s Political Science Club, a nonpartisan organization open to all undergraduate and graduate students to encourage political participation.
The two-party system is inherently flawed, he said. It doesn’t represent all points of view.
Hersh isn’t naïve about Jorgensen’s chances of winning but thinks the movement to vote third party needs to start somewhere. He’s planned to vote third-party since the primary.
“If there’s enough support countrywide, it could get us out of this two-party rut we’ve been stuck in for decades,” Hersh said.
But it’s not just a third-party vote for president that’s important, Hersh said. The movement has to start at the local level because statewide and local elections are even more important than the presidential race.
He disagrees with the attitude that voting third party is selfish. If enough people in key states register third party, he said, it will force the country to acknowledge how many people dislike two parties.
Hersh said he doesn’t think there is as much at stake this election as there was in 2016. Still, many people his age are divided. Those who are voting for Trump are really excited about it while those voting for Biden are doing so apprehensively. No one’s really excited about voting for Biden, he said, but they are doing it regardless.
As a first-time voter, Hersh said he’s excited to take part in democracy, despite its flaws.
“It’s nice having some kind of impact on my democracy,” Hersh said. “At the end of the day, I do like having a voice even if it’s small.”
– Laurel Demkovich
‘Brought shame to our country around the world’
Mariah McKay is voting for Biden, but she’s not really excited about it. She describes it as a “necessary duty.”
McKay, 37, supported Warren in the primary, and then Sanders once Warren dropped out. McKay has been an organizer in the Spokane community for years. Her focus in life is to deal with the despair of the country’s political chaos, something she says has become even more apparent in the last four years, with action.
So, she founded a business alliance organization that looks to create an equitable economy through organization and education. She also created Spokane’s first co-housing community.
McKay doesn’t think Biden will be as bold with his policies as she hopes, but he will likely undo a lot of Trump’s policies that she says has been “assaulting communities’ rights on multiple levels.”
“I think Trump is a reprehensible human who’s brought shame to our country around the world,” she said.
Her priorities this election are tax reform, health care reform and immigration reform. After this economic recession, the government has a moral responsibility to invest in its communities, McKay said, and refusing to create an affordable housing solution is killing people.
It’s frustrating to see the policies of those in power shift so dramatically away from her beliefs, she said.
“It seems like what we’re calling for is no longer common sense,” McKay said. “It’s like a wishful dream.”
She has low expectations, she said, but hopefully, Biden is just a step toward more progress.
“We have a flawed game, and we have to play that game,” McKay said.
‘Bringing economic stability’
Danny Selle sums up his support for Trump in one word: liberty.
And, to him, that’s not just about traditional values of what liberty means.
He’s grateful that Trump hasn’t embroiled the country in a major skirmish, forcing more troops to go over seas.
And he’s impressed by his handling of the economy.
“He’s bringing economic stability to our country and that’s part of our liberties,” said Selle, a long-time Spokane County resident who describes himself as an independent who leans Republican.
Four years ago, Selle, 78, wasn’t sold on Trump and planned to cast a vote for a write-in candidate.
But after he talked it over with his wife, he voted for Trump.
He’s grateful he did. He’s impressed that Trump has fought to bring jobs back to the United States, and that he’s helping to redirect the country to more like it was when he was younger.
“I told my wife that I was never so wrong about someone as I was with Donald Trump,” Selle said.
– Jonathan Brunt
‘Quit letting him scare us’
Latrice Williams said she didn’t believe Trump or Biden “were going in the right direction,” but vowed to continue to fight for her children’s future Nov. 4 and beyond.
“Because I am a Black woman, Indigenous, and I have children, I have to look at the bigger picture,” Williams, a 35-year-old Realtor and advocate for formerly incarcerated people in Spokane, said.
Williams, a member of the Racial Equity Committee of the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, said she’s spent this election cycle reaching out to people formerly in prison to let them know their right to vote is automatically restored once they leave state custody.
“A lot of people don’t understand that they have the right to vote with certain stipulations,” she said. “They think they lost that right forever.”
Williams would not say for which presidential candidate she cast her ballot, but was highly critical of Trump’s messaging to white supremacist groups. She referenced his words to one group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by” as particularly dangerous.
“We also have to quit letting this guy, our president, we have to quit letting him scare us,” Williams said.
She believes that fear of the president has also bled into Biden’s campaign, leading to a lack of conviction on the debate stage she would have liked to see from the Democratic candidate.
“He’s shook by the president,” Williams said of Biden. “I don’t want him to be shook, I want him to stand on his own two feet.”
Williams said the economic conditions before the pandemic with Trump in the White House had been beneficial to her business. But, she said, his rhetoric on the progress of racial and social justice movements over the past several decades was more important to her family’s future.
“We will not be going back to 100, 200 years ago,” she said. “That’s not going to happen.”
- Kip Hill
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.