Hours before polls open in US midterm elections, Americans remain deeply polarized on issues from immigration to abortion — though many were united in fears for their country’s democracy.
With control of the United States Congress at stake, citizens voiced concerns for the future, whether they were Republicans doubtful of the integrity of the vote, or Democrats concerned by election denialism.
Here’s what some American voters in cities around the country had to say about Tuesday’s polls.
– State of US democracy –
Across the country voters called on their fellow citizens to cast their ballot in the midterms, which historically have a low turnout.
“I would emphasize vote, vote, vote,” 24-year-old student Luke Osuagwu told AFP in Atlanta, Georgia.
Marisha Camp, a photographer from New York who spoke to AFP ahead of a rally with President Joe Biden at Bowie State University in Maryland, agreed.
“Voter turnout concerns me,” she told AFP. “I think people should be more terrified.”
“There’s a bunch of issues that are going on right now,” agreed Los Angeles resident Robert Jimenez, who spoke to AFP at a voting center where Californians were casting early ballots.
“If we don’t go out and vote, we’re not going to have our voices heard.”
Many so-called election deniers — Republicans embracing defeated president Donald Trump’s false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen and that voter fraud is rife — are on the ballot in races across the country.
Analysts have also warned of the threat of violence around the elections.
Social activist Guy Djoken, also at the Biden rally, told AFP that what resonates for him “is this democracy we are about to lose.”
Describing emigrating to the US from Cameroon, he said: “I come from a place where I know what the absence of democracy will do… If we lose that, we have nothing left.”
In Arizona, 56-year-old Michelle Meglio said she cast her ballot last week and was “very worried about election integrity.”
“It’s a very important topic. I believe that we have a lot of irregular irregularities,” she said.
But Shana Ellis, a 51-year-old Arizona State University employee, said she has “complete faith” in the process, and condemned armed men who have been spotted patrolling drop boxes in Arizona.
“I think that’s an intimidation tactic, and everyone should be afforded the right to vote,” she told AFP.
Law student Benjamin Smart, in Phoenix, Arizona, was willing to go against his own beliefs in order to protect democracy.
“I’m pro-life. But I think denying election is just too important of a thing to get wrong. And so I wouldn’t vote for them,” said the 23-year-old, referring to Republicans.
Smart said he does not “think there’s much of a chance for actual violence, but the fact that we keep getting closer to it and people are threatening, it is quite concerning.
“I don’t want us to get to a place where I really do have to be concerned about that.”
– Abortion –
Reproductive rights are a banner issue for many voters, after the US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion earlier this year and states began imposing restrictions or banning the procedure altogether.
Some saw that as a chance to act: “I feel like it’s a good opportunity now for Georgia to also put some restrictions on abortion,” said university student Meron Kiros in Atlanta.
Others were fearful. Chemical engineer Robin Thomas expressed concerns over bodily rights.
“I think overall, as a woman, I want to make sure that I have rights over my own body and I don’t think that local politicians should be getting involved in that,” she told AFP in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
– Immigration –
Democrats have “broken the immigration system,” says 71-year-old Francisco Cabral in McAllen, Texas, lamenting a “silent invasion” of undocumented people over the border with Mexico.
“We have a huge border crisis here in Arizona,” agreed Michelle Meglio in Phoenix.
But housewife Romelia Hinojosa, who also lives in McAllen, said migrants are welcome “as long as they do things correctly and abide by the laws of the country.”
– Trump –
Any Republican “red wave” could open the door to a comeback bid by former president Donald Trump, who said he would be making a major announcement on November 15.
“Trump for sure is running again. That’s not a question mark,” said Marisha Camp, the photographer at the Biden rally.
“I would like for Donald Trump to run again. I think the Democrats are going to do everything they can to prevent him from running,” said Matthew Isaac, a 38-year-old administrative assistant in Phoenix, Arizona.
Debbie Brown, who spoke to AFP at a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio, was unequivocal in her support.
“He was great, he made America great and everything was doing well with the economy and we just need him back,” she said.