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Voters see high stakes as they turn out in droves for first day of early voting

Voters see high stakes as they turn out in droves for first day of early voting


A better life for future generations. American democracy. The very survival of America.

All these things are at stake in the 2020 elections, according to some of the people who showed up to cast their ballots on the first day of in-person early voting on Thursday.

The line at the Highland Recreation Center — one of five locations open for early voting in Catawba County — had already formed when the doors opened at 8 a.m.

By 10 a.m., there was a line stretching from the entrance down the sidewalk and back to the first row of cars in the parking lot. Some voters who were leaving the voting site at 10 said they’d gotten there shortly after the polls opened.

At another early voting site, the Catawba County Library in Newton, there was a line running from the building entrance to the sidewalk by S. Ashe Avenue just before noon.

Signs of the pandemic’s impact on this year's elections were evident. Many voters wore masks and poll workers were dressed like hospital staff.

People who came out to vote in the presidential election described this as the most important election in their lifetimes.

70-year-old Hickory resident and Trump supporter Phil Smith said he believed the survival of the country is at stake this year.

He said he supported Trump’s approach to law-and-order issues, immigration and health care. “He’ll take care (of those issues),” Smith said. “His hands, looks to me, have been tied for the last several months but I think that will all end when he’s reelected.”

Maiden resident James Picklesimer, 71, a Trump supporter, said he thought the country was “really degrading” and needed to be put back on track. “He’s for law and order and for our American heritage and for the people of America,” Picklesimer said. “I think he stands for the people and not just for a bunch of rules and regulations and stuff.”

Several supporters of Democratic candidate Joe Biden also said they thought the country was in bad shape. They specifically criticized Trump’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, health care, race relations and women’s rights.

Brenda Arnett, a Newton resident in her 70s, said “the last (few years) just have been awful.” She added, “Our leader lies to us and he just doesn’t seem to be interested in trying to make any positive changes, so we need a change."

Biden voter Janie Hughes, 68, of Conover, said she was concerned with health care and the rights of minorities and women.

“I think it needs to be back to a time when people were decent to each other, where people could talk to each other, but we also need to move forward where everybody has rights and it’s time to give Black people, brown people and women — everybody — their place in this country now,” Hughes said.

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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