Election updates: Voters defy COVID, misgivings to make their voices heard

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Safety protocols for COVID-19 were prominently displayed at Gila River Arena on Election Day 2020. (Photo by Catie Cheshire/Cronkite News)

Millions of people voted early in Arizona, and countless more on Tuesday took on an Election Day tradition as COVID-19 precautions shadowed polling places. They cast their vote in person at places of worship, community centers, schools, nonprofit headquarters, government buildings and other locations in Arizona marked with a directional arrow on a familiar “Vote Here/Aqui” sign.

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They drove, walked, biked, bused or rode to every corner of the state to cast a ballot. Some had already decided which candidate to choose or what issue they would approve or oppose. Some didn’t know for sure until they took their ballots, with its empty circles waiting for completion, into the voting booth.

All took part in a tradition as old as democracy, even as there were new twists. Here are some of the stories of voters, volunteers and others who played a role in election 2020:

8 p.m. Polls close across state, with few exceptions

Voters across Arizona raced to get in line before polls closed at 7 p.m., including one last minute sprinter at the Burton Barr Library in downtown Phoenix.

Voters who were in line by 7 p.m. were allowed to cast a ballot after polls closed in most parts of Arizona.

Two polling places in Apache County stayed open past 7 p.m., after the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit earlier in the day to extend voting by an hour at two sites โ€“ Chinle Community Center and Red Mesa School Conference Room โ€“ that opened late. Tthe lawsuit was filed against Apache County officials.

Poll workers at the Chinle Community Center confirmed to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona that their polling location did stay open until 8 p.m.

โ€” Reporting by Kylie Cochrane

6:12 p.m. Stolen ballots found Friday on side of road in Glendale

Glendale Police Department over the weekend returned 18 ballots that had been stolen from mailboxes near Northern and 107th avenue, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Rovey Farms worker Brayan Ruiz found a stack of sealed, completed mail-in ballots near 99th and Glendale avenues while he was at work.

“They were just lying on the floor covered in concrete, rocks, pieces of concrete,” Ruiz said in a video shared by the Attorney General’s Office. “The only thing I did was I kicked the rocks, checked what it was, and it said “election” something.”

(Video courtesy of Arizona Attorney General’s Office)

Ruiz called Glendale police, and officers were able to hand deliver the ballots to voters. No arrests have been made.

“I don’t know why people would do this,” Ruiz said. “Especially in 2020 with all this coronavirus, all this election stuff, people have different beliefs; there’s not much I can say.”

Despite differing political beliefs, two Glendale voters at in-person polling locations Tuesday agreed that voting is the best way to ensure your voice is heard.

“I’m here today personally to secure the freedom of America,” said Margret Pailos, 55, a Republican. She liked Trump in 2016 and was excited to vote for him for the first time this year.

Another first-time voter, Elizabeth Barraza, wore her “Latinos for Black Lives” T-shirt and touted the importance of voting, adding that those who don’t vote won’t be heard.

– Reporting by Kylie Cochrane, Isabella Martillaro, and Amna Subhan

5:28 p.m. Voters flocked to polls in the East Valley as the sun began to set

The polling station at the Mesa Convention Center saw wait times grow to about an hour as voters began stopping by after work.

“Before I would go to the booths and do it that way, but everyone kept telling me it’s better to do the mail-in, so I did that but I forgot to put it in the mailbox, so I brought it out,” said Mary Kistler, a certified nursing assistant.

Kistler expressed her hopes that tensions and unrest die down once the election is over and the dust has settled.

Maria Perez, a factory worker, said that voting for her is extremely important because she’s concerned for those who have faced unemployment.

“Where I work, we do the gowns for hospitals, so right now I have a job, honestly, but some people don’t have a job right now so it’s been hard for other families to have a job, so for me to vote is important, really important.”

โ€” Reporting by Jacob Holter

4:47 p.m. Phoenix storefronts bracing for possible unrest

Some downtown Phoenix businesses and storefronts were boarded up Tuesday in anticipation of possible unrest.

Plywood shielded glass windows and entryways at the Wells Fargo building and other sites, echoing similar measures taken across the country.

Phoenix police officials said Tuesday they’re ready to deal with any safety concerns that may arise.

Windows are boarded up at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix as a precaution to possible post-election violence. Other cities also are preparing for possible protests. (Photo by Amna Subhan/Cronkite News)

“While we have no information to indicate there will be criminal activity as a result of the election, we will continue to monitor activity related to demonstrations and responses will be determined by intelligence driven information,” Sgt. Maggie Cox said.

In preparation for this election, the Phoenix Police Department partnered with the city, Maricopa County Elections Department and the Sheriff’s Office to vet potential safety concerns related to the election.

The Sheriff’s Office can’t discuss safety plans, Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez said, it “remains ready to serve the areas of its jurisdiction and be a support agency to other areas in the state.”

Phoenix police reminded everyone to be vigilante: “If you see something say something.”

– Reporting by Kylie Cochrane

4:23 p.m. Organizers with Mi Familia Vota making last push to mobilize voters

Being too young to vote didn’t mean too young to make a difference for 16-year-old Kevin Rosas, who spent the past three weeks phone banking and volunteering with Mi Familia Vota, an organization dedicated to increasing civic engagement among Latinos and immigrants.

The organization’s CEO, Hector Sanchez Barba, said volunteers spent Election Day responding to reports of misinformation robocalls calls in Latino-dominated battleground states, including Arizona and Florida. The Spanish and English robocalls claimed that Joe Biden had already won and that voting had been extended to Nov. 4, Sanchez Barba said.

“It happens every election,” said Eduardo Sainz, Arizona state director for Mi Familia Vota. “Historically, this country has relied on voter suppression for folks to remain in power.”

Young volunteers can always make a difference. Joceline Carrillo, 17, Laura Gonzalez, 18, and Amy Valencia, 18, are members of Mi Familia Vota, an organization in Eastlake Park that helps to mobilize voters. (Photo by Daja E. Henry/Cronkite News)

As the influence of Latino voters grows across the United States, nearly 24% of Arizona voters are Latino, according to Pew Research Center. Sainz said hearing their voices in American politics has been a long time coming. For the 2020 election, a record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote.

“Arizona has been flipping since 2016,” he said, citing the loss of conservative Sheriff Joe Arpaio that year, an increase in the minimum wage and the election of a Latina mayor in Tucson. “This feels like a victory lap.”

Sainz, 27, started organizing as a teenager and was inspired to take action and begin his work after the passing of SB 1070, legislation that required state law enforcement to determine one’s immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest, which he said “terrorized” his community.

Sanchez Barba said Arizona “represents a unique example of what can happen when we invest in the political power of the Latino community.”

Mi Familia Vota’s strategy, which includes involving young people in the process of voter education, is a long-term one for mobilizing Latino voters.

“When we stay away from transactional investment that happens all the time when there is a swing state and instead focus on the long-term investment of the community, this is what happens,” Sanchez Barba said.

โ€” Reporting by Daja E. Henry and Anthony J. Wallace

3:14 p.m. Mariachi band performs for voters at Pascua Yaqui center

As voters came out to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Wellness Center in Tucson, a mariachi band greeted them with song.

Priscilla Cornado Madrid, 47, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe who lost her job as a cashier during the COVID-19 pandemic, said it’s tough to support her six-person household on her husband’s income alone. One of the main reasons she voted for former Vice President Joe Biden is her belief he’ll be better at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Madrid also voted yes on Proposition 208, stating that it’s important for schools to have the money they need to provide a better education for Native Americans. But she voted against Proposition 207, which would legalize marijuana, citing the problem of drug use among Natives, especially children.

As the sun beat down at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Wellness Center in Tucson, a mariachi band serenaded a steady stream of voters who came out to exercise their constitutional right. (Photo by Franco LaTona/Cronkite News)

“It’s sad because they’re getting younger and younger,” Madrid said of drug abusers.

Madrid expressed respect for both candidates in the Senate race and their military service but voted for Mark Kelly.

As voters were given drinks to stay hydrated and the mariachi band continued to play, state Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, cast her vote Tuesday afternoon.

Race-related issues are some of the most important to Gonzales this election, who added that as a woman of color, she’s been advocating for women and people of color since she entered politics 27 years ago.

“We’ve suffered discrimination our whole lives,” she said. “But people are listening now, and we can move forward.”

Gonzales, who represents District 3, voted for both Joe Biden and Mark Kelly. She said Trump’s response to the coronavirus has been awful, and that she lost a sister-in-law and a campaign volunteer to the virus.

“She didn’t have to die,” she said, her eyes tearing.

Gonzales said Kelly will “do great” if elected, and that those around him will positively influence him.

As a former teacher at Anna E. Lawrence 3-8 Elementary, Gonzales voted yes on Proposition 208. Gonzales said that she’s advocated for increased school funding for years, and that schools in her area have been underfunded since before the 2008 recession.

“Education needs to be equitable for all kids.”

– Reporting by Franco LaTona

3:08 p.m. North Phoenix polling station runs into technical difficulties

At the MVD North Phoenix polling station, the printer that prints ballots briefly lost connection to the server about noon, according to poll workers.

“They print the ballots up here as they need them. We don’t have to come in with a stack of 2,000 ballots anymore,” said Andrea Hughes, a volunteer for nonpartisan group Election Protection Arizona working at the polls.

The printer was offline for 15 to 20 minutes, but problems didn’t end when the connection was restored.

“It printed some ballots twice. So, people would be voting and they would hear their name called again and say, โ€˜Well, I’ve already voted,'” Hughes said. “I don’t think it happened to a bunch of people. I didn’t get that impression. They may have printed the ballots a couple times extra, but they got everything and there’s no way anyone could have voted twice.”

The cause of this issue was unknown, but could be attributed to simple technological errors.

“They’ve never had trouble with the printers before. This is just one of those things, printers, computers, there’s always a possibility of it going down. It doesn’t always happen, but there is that possibility,” Hughes said.

– Reporting by Sarandon Raboin

2:41 p.m. Nurse casts ballot to re-elect Trump in Chandler

Nurse Venetia Smith visited the Environmental Education Center in Chandler to cast her vote to reelect Donald Trump, saying that as a medical worker with 11 years of experience, she approves of his dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not the government’s job to fix our lives, we need to take care of our health and our well-being,” she said. “You know the government is there for support to help the community, but everyone has a personal responsibility to do what they think is the healthiest and right thing for themselves.”

Smith said that since she started a family, voting has become more important to her to keep Arizona the way that it is. Smith voted no on Propositions 207 and 208 โ€“ which would legalize recreational marijuana and raise taxes on wealthy Arizonans to fund schools, respectively.

– Reporting by Rachel Phillips

1:30 p.m. Judge orders search for possibly overlooked ballots in Arizona, other battleground states

Updated at 7 p.m. In response to two lawsuits filed against the Postal Service over slowed delivery, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., issued a 1 p.m. Arizona deadline to inspect postal facilities and ensure the return of any leftover ballots.

But, the U.S. Postal service missed the court deadline and failed to sweep 12 postal districts, including Arizona, according to USA Today, and postal service officials told Sullivan the order would have impacted their Election Day activities.

In response, Sullivan said the agency “shall be prepared to discuss the apparent lack of compliance with the court’s order” during an afternoon hearing Wednesday.

Sullivan has presided over several lawsuits involving the Postal Service and its impact on U.S. elections, and earlier this month issued an injunction reversing actions taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that slowed ballot delivery.

This latest order came in response to two lawsuits filed against the Postal Service over slowed delivery. The Postal Service shared data Tuesday revealing counting delays across the country.

Postal Service spokesperson Rod Spurgeon told Cronkite News in a statement earlier Tuesday afternoon that Arizona’s postal workers were doing everything they could to keep up with election-related mail, which has more than doubled from the last general election cycle.

“Vote Forward saw first-hand how degraded mail service by the USPS has already damaged faith in our electoral processes”, Scott Forman, executive director and founder of one plaintiff, the advocacy group Vote Forward, told Cronkite News.

“Now we’re seeing that thousands of valid, legitimate ballots may not be delivered ahead of deadline.

That deadline for mail-in-ballots already passed in Arizona. According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office county election officials had to receive ballots-by mail by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

โ€“ Reporting by Kylie Cochrane

12:00 p.m. Voting differences don’t divide families, not always

Edward Mooradian is voting for Joe Biden. But he can’t say the same for others in his household. In fact, he said, they often have healthy arguments over their varying viewpoints.

“I wouldn’t say it ever gets heated to the point where it’s bad, but it’s interesting to see both perspectives,” Mooradian said.

Tuesday is his second time voting in a presidential election, and his first time voting in Arizona, this time at the Environmental Education Center in Chandler. Mooradian, 22, said that issues younger voters care about are being addressed now in this election, which may be why so many of them are coming out to vote.

“For the younger generation, (Proposition) 207 is probably really important just for the fact that I think it is something that’s a step for progressive America and a way to really open the door to thinking and being able to generate taxes through much different and new avenues,” he said.

In a poll released last week by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, 63% of 18- to 29-year-olds who were surveyed said they would “definitely” vote in this year’s election. That’s the highest proportion of respondents in the 20 years since the poll of young voters began.

Paul Pfeiffer, 49, has had similar familial debates about politics with his daughter. She attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, so the conversation of politics tends to bring the house together โ€” and apart at times.

“In our family, we love to debate,” Pfeiffer said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little more conservative. She’s a little more on the liberal side.”

He chose to vote on Election Day, casting his ballot at Litchfield School District Support Services Building.

“Sometimes crazy little things do happen,” Pfeiffer said. “New revelations about candidates or something like that. Traditionally I’ve just brought everything back on the day of the election.”

Pfeiffer, a retired nurse, enjoys and supports the contrasting beliefs among his family.

“It’s what makes our country great,” he said, opening his arms. “It makes my family great.”

โ€“ Reporting by Rachel Phillips and Reed Harmon

10:58 a.m. DACA recipient works to help voters

(Video by Maya Leachman/Special for Cronkite News)

Eddie Calderon didn’t have to come to the polls Tuesday. The 25-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a DACA recipient, so he can’t legally vote. But he believes it’s his civil responsibility to help protect the rights of those who can vote. (DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era immigration policy that protects from deportation eligible young people who were brought to the United States as children.)

“I’m just here to ensure there is no voter intimidation and that all folks have the right to vote,” he said.

Calderon met voters at the Alhambra Elementary District Office polling place in west Phoenix. He plans to visit polls across the city on Election Day. As a DACA recipient, he said that a lot of choices have been made for him. But he still wants to do what he can.

“Sometimes it feels like our broken immigration system gets nowhere, so for me, my civic duty is to empower my community to get out and vote,” Calderon said.

โ€“ Reporting by Isabella Martillaro

10:40 a.m. Volunteer urges voters to remember resources for local schools

Although he already had voted, Todd Liolios, 53, arrived at Laveen Baptist Church when the polls opened at 6 a.m. to advocate for the renewal of the Laveen Elementary School District budget override.

Laveen is one of more than a dozen school districts in Maricopa County that are asking voters to fund bonds and budget overrides. In total, all the schools’ requests will equal more than $600 million.

“It’s important to vote, especially for the future of our children’s education,” he said.

With a stack of flyers in hand, Liolios approached voters as they walked into the polling location, giving them each a quick, five-second spiel.

A “yes” vote, which Liolios supports, would allow for full-day kindergarten and small class sizes in the district. Additionally, the renewal would allow the district to keep funding special area classes, including art and music.

Liolios works at the Laveen Education Center, across the street from the church. He said he came out today to represent and advocate for the future of their children’s education.

“A lot of school districts have gotten rid of art, PE, and music classes,” he said. “But if the voters support us in this election, we will be able to keep those programs for our students.”

โ€“ Reporting by Lauren Serrato

10:28 a.m. PPE, shields and wiping down polling locations in Coconino County

Officials in Coconino County had a minor glitch Tuesday morning, but more than 3,000 residents have voted so far with no reports of long lines or major issues. Although electronic poll books were not syncing with the official database when polls opened at 6 a.m., the problem was resolved within 45 minutes, County Recorder Patty Hansen said. The glitch did not keep residents from voting.

Nearly 53,000 early ballots have been received as of Tuesday morning, higher compared to previous elections, Hansen said.

More than 60% of registered voters in Coconino County already have cast ballots, she said.

Personal protective equipment and plexiglass shields have been provided to each of the polling locations, high touch areas are wiped down between each voter, and masks must be worn by every person entering the polling location. Curbside voting is available for individuals who cannot wear masks.

“Nobody’s turned away from voting. They just vote in a different manner,” Hansen said.

Handwashing stations were also provided to polling locations on the Navajo Nation Reservation, she said. Those precautions were taken during previous election days this year, “so it’s not new to registered voters or poll workers.”

โ€“ Reporting by Ayanna Muhammad

10:27 a.m. Republicans come out in support of President Trump

Outside Cave Creek Town Hall, Bonnie Ebstyne sets up her spot where she plans to spend the day helping voters and supporting the Republican Party. As she shows off her collection of Trump/Pence merchandise, she explains how important it is for her to be out here at the polls to make sure there is no voter suppression or fraud.

Ebstyne is a retired teacher who is a member of the non profit educational group, Women of Arizona.

“It is designed to liberate people from being arbiter consumers of information. We want to get people more involved in the political process,” she said.

Ebstyne is passionate about getting people more involved and hands on with the political process so that people can form their own opinions.

“I am all about participation in the process,” she said, “when people are sleeping at the wheel things never go well.”

She said people need to be more involved in the political process and “not rely on propaganda to tell them what is happening.”

โ€“ Reporting by Haleigh Bartow

10:11 a.m. Arizona Cardinals owner gives staff day off to vote

Troy Peterson, director of construction for the Arizona Cardinals, helps voters at the Mesa Community College Red Mountain voting location. “We had almost 200 in line when it first opened, so it was good to see the turnout and the energy behind voting,” he says. (Photo by Rachel Phillips/Cronkite News)

Michael Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, has given all team employees the day off to vote or help at the polls. Employees are taking the opportunity.

Troy Peterson, the team’s director of construction, arrived at the Mesa Community College Red Mountain polling location before the sun rose to help voters.

“Michael, specifically, and the whole organization really pushes the civic duty of voting and getting out and voting and so it’s very much encouraged,” Peterson said.

Peterson, wearing a bright red shirt bearing the team’s logo, said the site shows “a lot of positive energy and a lot of people excited for the chance to vote.”

“We had almost 200 in line when it first opened, so it was good to see the turnout and the energy behind voting,” he said.

He stood at the end of the line with a whiteboard sign, where he writes the latest wait times and nearby polling places. He’s prepared to wait there until after the polls close.

โ€“ Reporting by Rylee Kirk

10:06 a.m. Meh on presidential candidates but for Proposition 207 marijuana measure

It’s slow going Tuesday morning outside First United Methodist Church in Tucson, where Kyle Lovendahl, 21, a car salesman, is one few to cast ballots at this location. He believes Proposition 207, which would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona, is the most important issue on the ballot.

He also supports Proposition 208 for education funding. As a graduate of Sahuaro High School in Tucson, he said he knows first hand how badly the school system needs money.

As far as the presidential election goes, he said neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden are particularly good candidates, but didn’t mince words about how he thinks the president is doing: Trump “doesn’t deserve to be in office.”

โ€“ Reporting by Franco LaTona

10:00 a.m. Religion guides some Arizona voters

Eric Shriver, wearing a cross that his mother gave him, voted at the Flagstaff Mall polls. He hopes the election is free and fair and that no matter who wins, everybody accepts the result. (Photo by Luke Simmons/Cronkite News)

Some Arizonans say that faith is the strongest principle guiding them at the ballot box.

Eric Shriver, 26, who voted this morning at the Flagstaff Mall polls, wears his values around his neck โ€“ a cross that his mom gave him.

“It’s a symbol that God still loves us even when we fall away,” he said. “I am called to be one of God’s men, even when I do mess up.”

Shriver hopes the election is free and fair and that no matter who wins, everyone accepts the result. Shriver cast his vote in person because he has never voted by mail, and going in person is “more exciting.”

Like Shriver, Natalie Valenzuela enjoys the experience of voting in person, and she, too, felt guided by her Christian faith.

Valenzuela, 30, said it’s her duty to vote. She voted Tuesday at ASU’s Tempe campus.

“It’s more of my religious background,” she said. “I’m not really a politics girl.”

She also brought her children along with her before they head to school, so that her kids “can grow up knowing it’s important for you to vote.”

โ€“ Reporting by Luke Simmons and Sthefany Rosales

9:30 a.m. COVID response motivates Tucson voters

Arsenio Luna votes at the Sabbar Shrine Center. A transgender woman who lives in Tucson and works as an area manager for Amazon, she believes Joe Biden is the better candidate to fix the hatred that divides Americans. (Photo by Franco LaTona/Cronkite News)

Justin Brigman misses the days when he could stop for a cold beer after work. Since the coronavirus-induced lockdown began in March, that hasn’t been possible.

That’s why Brigman, 44, is voting for Joe Biden. He thinks Biden is better suited to handle the coronavirus, and the faster he becomes president the faster the virus will get under control.

For Brigman, a self-employed painter in Tucson, that will mean his life can go back to normal.

Brigman was one of a slow stream of voters to flow through the Sabbar Shrine Center near downtown Tucson Tuesday morning.

Feliz Zaborsty, a 41-year-old Tucson resident who is self-employed selling salsa at farmer’s markets, was another.

She said the most important issue she’s voting on in this election is COVID-19, particularly the lockdowns in Arizona following the outbreak.

Zaborsty said they were an infringement on personal freedom. She thought the restrictions should have been more targeted towards vulnerable populations instead of stopping hard-working people from doing their jobs, which she said has hurt too many local businesses.

Arsenio Luna, a transgender woman who lives in Tucson and works as an area manager for Amazon, also came to the Sabbar Shrine Center to vote.

She isn’t enthusiastic about voting for Biden in this election, but she’s doing it anyway. She believes there’s too much hatred in the U.S. right now and he’s better suited to bringing people together.

Luna also voted on both propositions on the ballot. Luna called Proposition 207 to legalize recreational marijuna a “great idea,” and said she thinks if passed it will boost Arizona’s economy. She said marijuana just isn’t that big of a deal and using it shouldn’t be considered a criminal act.

A graduate of the Tucson public school district, she voted in favor of Proposition 208, which she said has the potential to improve local schools.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it, so why not do it,” she said.

Jessica Littenstein, another Tucson resident who came to the polling location with Brigman, agrees. She has a daughter in 6th grade and Proposition 208 is needed to improve schools and pay teachers a fair wage.

Zaborsty said she voted against Proposition 208, which she said unnecessarily taxes higher-income earners who create jobs for everyone else. She’s worried people will leave the state due to high taxes, leaving Arizona with fewer jobs for low-wage workers.

โ€“ Reporting by Franco LaTona

9:25 a.m. Rain doesn’t deter voters in Flagstaff

Matt Esparza and Manuel Chavez stand outside a voting center in Flagstaff before handing out snacks and water to those in line. “We’ve seen how long lines can be in other states,” Esparza says. “We’re just here to support people who need it.” (Photo by Luke Simmons/Cronkite News)

On a dreary and rainy morning in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University students Matt Esparza and Manuel Chavez are standing outside the NAU Skydome polling location.

“We’ve seen how long lines can be in other states,” Esparza said. “We’re just here to support people who need it.”

Voters have been steadily streaming in since polls opened at 6 a.m. Esparza and Chavez said they will be handing out snacks and water throughout the day.

Most polling locations in Coconino County also have a curbside voting option, according to election marshal Kathy Flaccus, who is working at the NAU Skydome polling station.

Voters can call the number on the sign, then two election officials, both Democrat and Republican, will bring the covered ballot to their car in the parking lot. After voters fill out the ballot, both officials will ensure that the ballot is processed into the machine.

โ€“ Reporting by Luke Simmons

9:05 a.m. First time voters turn out on both sides of presidential candidates

Voters line up outside of the Glendale Community College polling center to vote in-person on Election Day 2020. Before the polls opened at 6 a.m., more than 2.3 million Arizona residents already cast their ballots. (Photo by Jake Santo/Cronkite News)

Young voters are showing up at the polls Tuesday morning to vote in their first presidential election.

Madeleine McComas, 19, is one of them. She voted in her first election, at Glendale Community College.

“Since it was my first time, I wanted to come here and experience it,” she said.

McComas, a Trump supporter, believes he has upheld many of his campaign promises.

“I feel like he’s done a pretty good job and lived up to a lot of the things that he said was going to do,” she said.

McComas’ only complaint as a first-time voter was that she had to wait in line for 30 minutes, although she had expected to have to wait longer.

Other first-time voters, including Daanish Daudi, decided to mail-in their ballots early to avoid the lines.

Still, Daudi was at the polls as a volunteer with the Arizona Students Association, a nonpartisan grassroots organization that aims to support public university students in Arizona. He’s standing outside a polling location on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, where he is a student, to make sure there’s no voter suppression and to help answer voter questions.

Daudi, 18, a registered Democrat, said he was excited at being able to vote for the first time.

“I felt really read up on (the issues)] and knew who I wanted to vote for,” he said.

โ€“ Reporting by Jake Santo and Sthefany Rosales

9:00 a.m. Two friends spend day helping out at the polls

Christina Gratzer and Marian Sprague, both in their 60s, met through their daughters and have been friends for five years. They already have voted but went to polls in Mesa to hand out granola bars and water to people voting. (Photo by Rachel Phillips/Cronkite News)

Two friends in Mesa have already cast their ballots this year, but they still went to the polls on Election Day to help other voters.

Christina Gratzer and Marian Sprague, both in their 60s, met five years ago through their daughters. Together, they donned masks and patriotic clothing and handed out water and granola bars to other voters Tuesday morning in support of Stephen Richer, a Republican running for Maricopa County recorder.

Gratzer said appreciation also is what brought them to the Mesa Community College Red Mountain polling location.

“We know it’s hard to get out of bed early but you’re out here and we appreciate you,” she said.

Sprague said she is in it for the long haul.

“Maybe this afternoon I’ll come back with more waters,” she said.

Though the friends are spending election day together, they have different plans for Tuesday night.

“I’m going to be watching the results on TV and see if we have a result tonight,” Gratzer said.

“And I’m going to stay away from the TV and I’m going to stay busy,” Sprague said.

โ€“ Reporting by Rylee Kirk

8:32 a.m. Voting despite COVID concerns

To Robert Billaber, a 64-year-old Vietnam veteran, the key issue in the presidential race is getting the pandemic under control. He voted in person despite the pandemic to make sure his vote counted. (Photo by Taylor Tasler-Oatley/Cronkite News)

One retired Army veteran isn’t letting COVID-19 deter him from voting in person. That’s why Robert Billaber, 64, waited in line to vote in Old Town Scottsdale.

As someone who served in the Vietnam War, Billaber said he felt strongly about voting for a presidential candidate who respected American troops. To him, that candidate is Joe Biden.

Billaber said the issue that is most important to him this election is getting the pandemic under control. Despite his fears about COVID-19, he put on a mask and went to the polls because he wanted to vote in person to be absolutely sure his vote was counted.

“When it comes to the pandemic, the right choice is just obvious,” he said. “The Democratic candidate is the only choice.”

Just before 7 a.m. this morning, another veteran, Joshua Plantillas, made his way to the polls with his wife on one side and his daughter on the other.

Plantillas said in-person voting is one of the advantages of living in a democracy.

“I just like the fact that you can come in person and vote,” Plantillas said. “Being a veteran, it allows for that freedom to have that option to choose and elect who you want in office.”

People in the country may have opposing views but he’s grateful they are united in the privilege of being able to cast their vote, he said.

“I know a lot of people tend to disagree on things,” Plantillas said, “but at the end of it, we all come together as a nation and we elect someone who we feel is right in office.”

โ€“ Reporting by Endia Fontanez and Reed Harmon

8:30 a.m. Proposition 208 draws father, daughter to polls

Many Arizonans, including Jorel Williams, are invested in the local elections as well as the presidential one. Williams especially is interested in Proposition 208, which would tax higher incomes to support teachers and schools. (Photo by Taylor Tasler-Oatley/Cronkite News)

Although Emma still has some years left before she can vote, John Wheeler brought his 9-year-old daughter to the polls Tuesday in Glendale for a lesson on elections.

“I just wanted to show her, get her experience,” Wheeler said. “I wish at my age, my parents did this with me, took me to the polls and see democracy in action.”

Wheeler, 36, cast a ballot on national and local issues. He voted for Proposition 208, calling education a pressing issue. Proposition 208 would raise taxes for high earners to help schools pay for teacher salary increases and hire more staff.

“I have a wife who is a teacher and two kids in school,” he said.

Jorel Williams, 30, a voter in Scottsdale, said he feels strongly about the national election as well as local races, especially Proposition 208.

He was one of about 100 people waiting to vote at Mini Social, but the line moved quickly.

Williams considers it his duty to vote in person. He said he remembers an image he saw in history class as a child that depicted a Black man who was voting in person for the first time after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which outlawed preventing men from voting based on race.

โ€“ Reporting by Jake Santo and Endia Fontanez

8:26 a.m. “We hope we can be peaceful neighbors today’

Chris Miller is spending his Tuesday outside the Cave Creek Town Hall polling location donning a Biden shirt and talking to voters. Standing beneath a tent decorated with Biden posters, he’s joined by other Democratic Party representatives.

Miller voted by mail three weeks ago but is spending his day at the polls to help convince Arizona residents who haven’t already voted to do so.

“We are out here trying to make sure we support you and ensure that there is no voter suppression,” Miller said.

Phyllis Smith and Suzanne Mead, also outside of Cave Creek Town Hall, founded the Black Mountain Democrats in 2016.

“We did a Biden/Harris parade here last Saturday and it went very well, for the most part. We received lots of positive honks, “Mead said. “One man came along and yelled at us, “Go back to California,” but people don’t realize that Maricopa County is changing. Cave Creek is extremely red, but things are changing.”

Smith and Mead plan to continue to show their support for Biden and Harris all day.

“We got here at 6 a.m. and started setting up. The Republican group started setting up right next to us, so we went over to them and said that we hope we can be peaceful neighbors today,” Smith said.

Smith said the Republican group agreed, “which we really appreciate and was a great start to our day.”

โ€“ Reporting by Haleigh Bartow

8:15 a.m. What about a Libertarian for president?

Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump are the presidential candidates that receive the most attention, but they are not the only ones on the Arizona ballot.

As she stood in line at the Mini Social polls in Scottsdale, Allison Deneef said she is voting Libertarian this year.

“This is now the second election in a row that the Democratic Party failed me,” Deneef said.

The 30-year-old said she used to be a bartender but is now unemployed because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The two-party system just doesn’t reflect what I believe,” Deneef said.

Deneef said she was aware of questions regarding safety voting in-person during the pandemic, but that it was more important for her to see that her vote was counted.

โ€“ Reporting by Endia Fontanez

8:12 a.m. Flying home to vote

For those who prefer voting in person to voting by mail, there was one long-range option available: fly.

Arizona voter Ralph Reynolds, 79, arrived back home in Buckeye on Monday after visiting family in Tennessee, just in time to vote in person. On Wednesday, he plans to get back on a plane to Tennessee. Short trip, big reason for travel.

It’s “the most important day ever,” said Reynolds, who doesn’t trust mail-in voting. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of cheating, but we wanted to make sure our vote counted.”

Reynolds, a Republican, believes President Donald Trump has no need for adjustments but to continue what he has been doing for the previous four years.

“I just hope he continues doing what he’s been doing,” Reynolds said. “It’s been incredible so far, and I’m sure he’s the guy to take it even a step further.”

โ€“ Reporting by Reed Harmon

7 a.m. Democrats vote Republican

Martha Figueroa, 46, has voted in every election as a Democrat, but voted for the 2020 election as a Republican in Phoenix. “We need to make a better America, and Biden is not the one to lead us,” she says. (Photo by Lauren Serrato/Cronkite News)

By 7 a.m., the line to vote outside Laveen Baptist Church in Laveen Village had disappeared. Phoenix resident Martha Figueroa, 46, said she was in and out of the poll in less than five minutes.

Figueroa has voted as a Democrat in each election, but this election season, she voted Republican.

“We need to make a better America and Biden is not the one to lead us,” she said.

Figueroa works as a landscaper and says it’s the strenuous work she does that makes her want to see change.

“Latinos, we are not rapists and we are not criminals,” Figueroa said, referring to a term Trump often wields. “We are just people that want to look for a future. We do stuff that other people do not want to do. We do landscaping, we do roofs, we do all that in 115-degree heat.”

Despite the passion she has for her community and her culture, Figueroa said one of the biggest changes she hopes to see is in the country’s immigration laws.

“Whoever is here from another country, let’s get them papers and whoever wants to come needs to come legally,” she said. “We need to know who is here.”

Figueroa is not the only Democrat voting red this year.

Lessie Serrano, also a former Democrat turned Republican, came to the polls to support Trump.

Serrano, a 62-year-old Glendale resident, said her experience at the poll went quite smoothly.

“I think we are all just nervous because this is the quietest line I’ve ever been in,” Serrano said.

Serrano’s biggest priority for voting in person today was the protection of the United States.

“I need to know our country is going to stay the United States of America,” Serrano said.

โ€“ Reporting by Lauren Serrato and Jake Santo

6:20 a.m. Young voters vote in person

(Video by Sthefany Rosales/Cronkite News)

Tuesday was not the first time Sydney Ruder and Lydia Welty, both 22, voted in a presidential election. But when the two friends traveled to the polls together early this morning at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, they said it was their first time voting in person.

Welty, who voted for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and to show support for his running mate Kamala Harris, said “the stakes were too high” in this election for her to even consider not voting. She said it was important for young people to stay educated about the issues on the ballot.

“Our generation can make sure we get the things we want,” Welty said.

In Tempe, independent voter Derek Moon is also a second-time voter in presidential elections. He said that he doesn’t cast his votes to one side or the other and instead looks at the issues that each candidate is covering.

“I like to do my research and view the character of the person,” Moon said.

Moon, 23, said that while he agrees with the policies of multiple candidates, in the presidential election, he went with his “gut feeling” and voted for President Donald Trump.

He views voting as a civic duty.

“I just felt it very important for me to cast my vote, at least, even if it’s, you know, not the same way that some people would want it to be, but it’s just how I feel,” Moon said.

โ€“ Reporting by Endia Fontanez and Sthefany Rosales

6:10 a.m. Longtime voters stick to in-person tradition

The 2020 election may be unusual in a time of COVID-19, but some things never change.

Lloyd Rathburn, 66, has voted in person in every election since he was 18. This year is no different. Rathburn, a bartender at The Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale, said he is voting Republican.

“It’s just obvious the other party has lied and cheated,” Rathburn said.

Rathburn said that when it comes to re-electing President Trump, “it’s just common sense.” He said that his financial investments have done well since Trump took office.

“People are hurting and need more money,” he said.

No line had formed yet at Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch about 6:10 am, when Rathburn came to vote. But for voters at Mesa Community College at Red Mountain, it was a different story, where lines to vote stretched well down the street.

(Video by Rachel Phillips/Cronkite News)

Since he began voting in every election he could, 76-year-old David Ostler said he had never seen a line this long before. Ostler, a garage door worker, said he was honored to see so many people getting out early to vote is what he says is a critical time for the country.

“I see the values of America, what they stand for,” he said. “Sometimes they are being lost and we have to stand up for what we feel is right for America and rights of freedom and rights of choice, rights of honour and rights of respect.”

Ostler said people who don’t use their right to vote lose out.

“I think they’re losing the value of America if they don’t use that right because I’ve traveled the world. I’ve seen people who want to vote and can’t vote.”

โ€“ Reporting by Endia Fontanez and Rylee Kirk

5:28 a.m. Twitter abuzz in Arizona

The sun has barely risen in Arizona, but voters are already taking to social media to discuss the Election Day ahead.

Some are already lined up at polling stations across the state. One Pima County voter, Vinette Lawrence, a self-described veteran and mother of two who signaled her support for Joe Biden for president, took to Twitter just before 5:30am to say that there were already eight people in line ahead of her at her local polling location.

Jodi Johnson of Scottsdale tweeted at President Donald Trump at 6:30 am this morning that she was “so happy to be first in line to vote for you today in RED Arizona”.

Others are taking to social media to encourage each other to get out and vote. Two sisters, one in Florida and the other in Arizona, shared a “thrilling early election-morning conversation” over text in the day’s early hours.

All Arizona voting locations are open today from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m..

In the early hours of election day, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took to social media to share last minute encouragement to voters.

“It’s Election Day. Go vote, America!” Biden wrote on Twitter. “VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!” wrote Trump.

โ€“ Reporting by Katherine Sypher

6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2: I just want to encourage people to vote’

Dave Watt, who works for a local HIV/AIDS center, attended a candlelight vigil at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and waved a flag of encouragement. “Part of what I want to do is just encourage people to vote, just not be afraid to vote.” (Photo by Rylee Kirk/Cronkite News)

On the eve of Election Day, Dave Watt waved an enormous flag sharing a simple message in downtown Phoenix: “VOTE.”

The flag was much taller and longer than Watt and striped with every color of the rainbow. Holding it up with two hands, Watt said that though he is non-partisan, he wanted to encourage people to vote and be thoughtful when casting their ballots.

“We still need to, you know, coexist here, all together, as a diverse community,” he said.

Watt, who spends his days working for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, brought his flag to a candlelight vigil held by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. He said people may have to wait in lines to vote on Tuesday, and he wants to give them strength.

“We all need to come together tomorrow,” Watt said, “no matter how tomorrow goes.”

โ€“ Reporting by Rylee Kirk

News Reporter, Phoenix

Katherine Sypher is a Maine native who’s completing her master’s degree in mass communication. Sypher works as a health reporter for Cronkite News as a part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Southwest Health Reporting Initiative.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Ray Alonzo is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He mainly works as a digital reporter on the politics beat for Cronkite News.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Rachel Phillips is an Australian who’s pursuing a master’s degree in sports journalism and expects to graduate in December 2020. Phillips works as a broadcast reporter for Cronkite Sports.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Sthefany Rosales expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a focus in broadcast. Rosales also works as a digital intern at ALMA, creating social media content and producing stories.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Lauren Serrato is an Arizona native who expects to graduate December 2020 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Serrato received her bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from Wagner College in New York and has worked and interned with the Pac-12 Network, The Arizona Republic and Times Media Group.

News Reporter, Phoenix

Taylor Tasler-Oatley is from Reno, Nevada, and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Tasler-Oatley was an intern at KTAR News and Talk in Phoenix, where she created her own podcast and worked on news stories.

News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Luke Simmons of Georgia is pursuing a masterโ€™s degree in mass communication with a focus in health reporting. After earning a degree in international affairs from the University of Georgia in 2015, he joined the Peace Corps and served as an agroforestry volunteer in Guinea.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jake Santo expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelorโ€™s degree in sports journalism and a minor in political science. Santo most recently worked as a video intern for the Arizona Diamondbacks and game-day staff with Phoenix Rising FC.

News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Franco LaTona is a Wisconsin native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a masterโ€™s degree in mass communication. He is honing his visual storytelling skills and writing for the health desk at Cronkite News. LaTona spent more than three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.