Voters in the central San Joaquin Valley showed up early and stood in long lines Tuesday to elect the 45th president of the United States, but many were at the polls to vote against a candidate rather than for one.
The negative races run by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disgusted some voters, who cast ballots without enthusiasm.
Chris Bingham, 63, of Clovis voted at Bonaventure Park for Donald Trump – but had this to say: “I’m disappointed in a system that provided us with two people that seem to have more troubles than the average citizen.”
An AT&T worker and member of the Communication Workers of America, Bingham has not missed a presidential election since turning 18, the first year the law changed to allow those who are 18 to vote. This election, he said, “is probably the worst I have ever had to make a decision in.”
Bingham voted for Trump because of the Republican candidate’s stand on the Second Amendment, which jives with his belief in a person’s right to bear arms. But neither presidential candidate represented the average voter, he said.
The issue of gun control resonated with Valley voters. Nicolas Avakian, 18, voting at the Woodward Park Library in northeast Fresno, voted for Trump. “I love shooting guns,” the first-time voter and high school senior said.
Looking forward to a lifetime of voting, Avakian added, “hopefully it’s not this crazy all the time.”
Diana Tugwell, 25, a Fresno office manager, voted for Clinton. She thought Trump’s campaign was a joke at first. But as his campaign progressed, she found him rude and, “I just don’t think he’s qualified and I don’t think he is professional.”
Voting for Clinton on Tuesday at First Congregational Church in central Fresno, Tugwell said the email scandals that embroiled Clinton’s campaign did not deter her decision.
But Eric Read, 48, voting at People’s Church in northeast Fresno, said he could not vote for Clinton. A solar salesman, Read said: “I think Clinton is just very corrupt. People on the dole are the only ones who would vote for Clinton.”
Lupe Lango, 77, a Clinton voter at the same polling place, had this to say about Trump: “He’s awful. There’s something wrong with that man.”
A retired registered nurse, Lango was ebullient about her vote for Clinton. “Of course, a woman. A first woman.”
Amelia Lopez, 46, voted for Clinton at the Fresno Center for New Americans polling place in southeast Fresno. She could not vote for Trump, she said. “He just wants everybody out of the country. He just wants Americans here.” A home care worker, Lopez said Clinton is supportive of Latinos. “And she has more experience.”
Trump’s hard-line stand on illegal immigration appealed to printer Scott Neufeld, 47, of Fresno, who voted at People’s Church. “Everyone just keeps coming in and we keep paying for everything.”
Nick Gonzales, 36, of Fresno, could not vote for either Clinton or Trump. “I am just very disillusioned by the two-party system,” he said.
A substitute teacher, Gonzales, a registered Democrat, voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
His candidate is not perfect, Gonzales said, noting Johnson’s lack of knowledge about the Syrian city of Aleppo, for example. “He’s an oddball character.” But Johnson was governor of New Mexico and Gonzales likes the chemistry between Johnson and Libertarian running mate William Weld.
As for the two top candidates, Gonzales said Clinton’s email scandal “pushed me over the edge” and Trump’s antics were entertaining, but “he does have poor temperament.”
Fresno couple Steven and Chadrea Williams both voted at the West Fresno Regional Center in southwest Fresno and both voted against Trump – but chose different rivals.
Steven Williams, 24, voted for Libertarian candidate Johnson. His wife voted for Clinton.
Steven Williams said Clinton pandered to voters and Trump is only interested in helping his corporate friends. “This was more of an egotistical election,” he said.
Neither felt passionate about their choice. Chadrea Williams, 27, said her vote for Clinton would be a vote to block Trump. “Anyone not in his elite class is in trouble if he wins,” she said. The family has been struggling financially since Steven, a truck driver, was injured in an accident while driving in July. She believes Clinton will maintain help for the lower middle class.
Judy Hess, 71, voted for Clinton at the Woodward Park Library, but the Democratic candidate was not her first choice. “I was a Bernie (Sanders) supporter … but I am very happy that a first woman may, probably, will become president. Now our task is to make certain she governs in concert with the platform that the Democratic Party approved at the convention.”
And many voters said campaign fatigue had set in. They are tired of the contentious presidential election and ready for the country to move on.
“It’s been stressful,” Tugwell said. The campaigns have been difficult to escape, especially because of the preponderance of messages on social media. “It’s basically been everywhere you look, everywhere you go. You can’t go to sleep without hearing about it.”