At polling stations across the United States on Tuesday — in schools, town halls and libraries — lines formed quietly from before dawn.
Voters said a range of concerns motivated them to cast a ballot in the midterm elections, from key campaign issues such as abortion to broad disdain for the political climate.
Their choices, along with those of millions who already voted by mail or early in-person, will decide the control of US Congress, as well as many governorships, state legislatures and local offices.
Here’s what voters said drew them to the polls.
“I’ve tried to come first, make sure that I do my part, and then I can get to work,” said Robin Ghirdar, coffee in hand at a voting site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“There’s so much polarization and misinformation that I’d like to make sure that my voice is heard.”
In Union City, a majority Black suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, 26-year-old attorney Kuanna Harris said history pulled her to the voting booth.
“A bunch of my ancestors, whether they were Black or women, were not able to vote, so I think God put me here at this particular time to carry on that torch for them.”
At a polling site in Brooklyn, New York, retired police officer Kevin Flynn voted because of “the situation that happened on January 6th” 2021, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol.
“Once an officer, always an officer… officers got injured,” in the assault, said the 60-year-old. “It needs to be rectified…bottom line.”
Voter Donald Newton, 82, told AFP in Arizona’s capital Phoenix, that he believes Trump’s claims of massive election fraud are the “truth.”
“There’s a movie out there called 2000 mules,” said Newton, referencing a documentary alleging a conspiracy of hacked voting machines in 2020.
“It explains it all. And if you go and watch that, you’ll be convinced this is the truth of what happened there: it was stolen, the election.”
In contrast, 30-year-old lawyer Alexandra Ashley, in Pittsburgh, said that “some people are trying to undermine democracy. And it’s something that we can’t lose.”
And Susan Kwushue, a 50-year-old healthcare provider in Georgia, said having now voted, she knew she “contributed in my own little way by voting to make sure that things get better.”
Reproductive rights are a banner issue for many voters, after the US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion.
In Brooklyn, sustainability consultant Helen Rubenstein said that her motivation for voting was “first and foremost, my female reproductive rights, which are a healthcare issue.”
Phoenix voter Mona Sablan, 56, said that for abortion, “it’s the decision for the woman.”
“I don’t think the state — I don’t think the local, (or) federal (government) should have anything to say about this.”
With growing political fissures in the United States, some voters said they are fed up of the hostility.
In Brooklyn, 39-year-old software engineer Quonn Bernard says “some candidates that have been up for office recently are into mud slinging and negative campaigning.”
“I just don’t want those people representing me at the highest levels.”
Analysts have also warned of the threat of violence around the elections.
One 64-year-old voter in McAllen, a city in Texas along the US border with Mexico, said he hopes that there will not be a repeat of 2020.
“My expectation is that everybody act civilized, that… all the parties accept their winnings or defeats and that we all act as a country,” said Enrique Ayala.