Election Day notebook: Scenes from the East Valley - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Election Day notebook: Scenes from the East Valley

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Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2008 9:35 am | Updated: 9:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Voters will clarify the presidential field today with polls open in Arizona and more than 20 other states coast to coast.

Voters will clarify the presidential field today with polls open in Arizona and more than 20 other states coast to coast.

Hillary Clinton is battling with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, and John McCain is trying to close out Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. No candidate is expected to get enough delegates to clinch the nomination today, but the outcome should set the stage for a showdown over the final shape of the ticket.

The Tribune has reporters stationed at polling places across the East Valley and Scottsdale and will provide frequent updates with comments from voters.

6:30 p.m.: Lines go out church doors in Mesa

About 20 people stood outside the doors Tuesday evening for a chance to vote at Mesa Church of Christ on East Dana Avenue.

Voters seemed to be split not just between parties but also among the candidates.

On the Republican side, Carlos Castro said he voted for John McCain. Castro said one of the things he liked about McCain was that he is a war veteran.

John Porter said he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton because he liked the Bill Clinton Administration.

“I just don’t think Obama has the experience,” Porter said of other Democratic presidential hopeful, Barack Obama.

Erasmo Garcia said he voted for Obama for a few different reasons. Garcia said he felt that Obama would be a good choice because he is for change.

Garcia added that at this particular polling station, some registered voters did not show up on the precinct list, including himself. He said he was forced to wait about an hour but was eventually allowed to vote.

He said that voters were required to show two separate forms of identification, and if the driver’s license didn’t have and up-to-date address, then the voter couldn’t vote. Garcia said that in addition to that, some voters were getting sent to different precincts because they weren’t in the right place.

Submitted by Kristina Parma

6 p.m.: Last-minute voters line up in Scottsdale

A little more than an hour before the polls closed, a steady stream of voters exited the New Vision Spiritual Growth Center at Mountain View and Hayden roads in Scottsdale.

And ballots were being cast for candidates across the map.

Romney got John Bauer’s vote for his views on illegal immigration, economic policies and Iraq.

Bauer said McCain also seemed like a good candidate, but “I’m not quite sure about McCain on immigration.”

The top two issues for Phil Vetter were tax policies and the Iraq war. He cast a ballot for Huckabee because of his “straight talk.”

“Huckabee has maintained his same direction since the first time I heard him,” Vetter said.

Vetter drove his mother-in-law, Peg Caliendo, to the polls. As a Democrat, Caliendo said her vote for Obama was an easy decision.

“I don’t like Hillary,” she said.

It was the opposite for Michelle Sandonato, who exited the center a few minutes later.

“I have always been a huge fan of Hillary. I think her plans make a lot of sense,” Sandonato said, adding that she especially liked Clinton’s pledge to take on the student loan industry.

“As someone who’s paying off student loans, that’s something I respect,” said the 24-year-old.

Sandonato said presidential politics has been a hot topic among her co-workers. Not only is her office divided among liberals and conservatives, even people with the same political leanings debate loyalties between different candidates.

“This is a fun election,” Sandanato said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Amanda Keim

5:30 p.m.: Cindy McCain helps her husband with Today Show appearance

Ron Paul posters on street corners across east Mesa seemed to have made little difference on Tuesday. Many voters said John McCain reigns supreme in Arizona.

An early morning appearance on the Today Show by Cindy McCain sealed east Mesa resident Chris Perrin's vote for the Arizona senator.

"When I found out that he has two boys in Iraq, it means the war is personal for him. And that sealed the deal for me," Perrin said.

"You bet, he's a military guy, through and through," said resident Roy Ethyre, who was walking out of Mesa's Red Mountain Multigenerational Center after a gym session.

Ethyre also voted for McCain, but only reluctantly.

"I wanted Duncan Hunter," Ethyre said, with a chuckle.

The military credentials were of no consequence for other voters.

With their stock portfolio plunging, the economy is of prime concern to east Mesa residents Walter and Rosemary Thomas. And with Bill Clinton's success on that front during his presidency, the lifetime Democrats gave Hillary Clinton the thumbs up over Obama.

That, and her experience.

"She knows how to handle things, especially stuff overseas," Rosemary Thomas said. "I also admire her for her fortitude.

As for the Clintons' past scandals, Walter just rolled his eyes.

"Bill's sex stuff had nothing to do with his ability to run the country," Walter said. "It's time we got our priorities straight."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

5 p.m.: Mint Romney is top seller at ice cream parlor

Republicans are creaming the Democrats nearly three scoops to two at a Gilbert ice cream parlor.

“There’s no doubt of Gilbert political affiliation,” said Casey Stechnij, one of the owners at Udder Delights in the Republican stronghold of Gilbert.

Stechnij is offering a free scoop of politically flavored ice cream, such as “Mint Romney” and “Ba-Rocky Road,” to anyone wearing an “I voted” sticker today.

And since late last week, the shop has been conducting an unofficial poll that shows a huge leaning toward Republican candidates over the Democrats.

Among the Republican candidates, “Mint Romney” had left Arizona’s “John Candy Cane” in the cold 107-38 by Tuesday afternoon.

On the Democratic ticket, “Ba-Rocky Road” seemed to be outpacing “Blueberry Hill-ary” 59-34.

Stechnij said his “Scooper Tuesday” promotion has generated some passionate discussions in the shop located in a shopping center at 1385 E. Warner Road.

Ironically, Stechnij had yet to make up his mind who he would be voting for by late Tuesday.

“I’ve been holding off,” he said. “I’ll have to hold my nose and vote.”

He added: “Romney looks presidential, and that scares me.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Chris Markham

4:30 p.m.: Long lines, no time for knitting in Scottsdale

Lines were long and steady all day at Chaparral Christian Church in Scottsdale, snaking out the door during the lunchtime rush.

Poll worker Ruth Henry brought her knitting and a book, but wasn’t getting any down time. “I haven’t even had a chance to eat lunch,” she said.

Voters took it in stride, except for one angry guy who had to vote a provisional ballot and complained loudly the whole time. Voters whose names or addresses don’t match voting records, and who can’t provide additional ID, are allowed to vote provisional ballots, which can take days to verify.

Edythe Draper said she was swayed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s experience as an administrator. If Arizona Sen. John McCain wins the GOP nomination, she said she’ll consider Democrat Barack Obama.

McCain has spent his whole life in government, she said, and the president needs to be more well-rounded. She believes Romney would be a better manager, and Obama would do a better job of uniting the country.

Greg Konishi voted for MccCain, but only because as a registered Republican he couldn’t vote for his first choice, Obama.

“I think he’s got the leadership style and communication skills to lead this country,” Konishi said.

It was a toss up between New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Obama, but Diane Fenicle came down for Clinton.

Their positions are so similar, she said, that she’s not sure it makes much difference who gets elected. She worried that both candidates were bringing too much corporate money into the party, but sided with Clinton, in part, because of her universal health care plan.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Mary K. Reinhart

4:15 p.m.: Voters turned away in A.J.

Nearly 600 people had voted by 3 p.m. at the John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Apache Junction. But many others were turned away.

Susan Helen Giordano, a Republican who moved from Glendale to Apache Junction, said she was surprised to learn her name was not on the voter registration list when she showed up to vote.

She said her yellow voter card identified her as PND -- for Party Not Determined. She said she was told that many legal voters were turned away and asked to return later in the evening -- when the paperwork would be fixed.

Giordano said she plans to return, but added: "I wonder how many people there are like me who may not come back."

An election official at the church said there has also been some confusion on the part of independents, who are not allowed to vote in Arizona's presidential preference election.

Robert Gray, an Apache Junction resident, had no trouble voting. He cast his ballot for Barack Obama.

"We need to get rid of those Repubicans," gray said.

He said Hillary Clinton as been influenced by her husband, Bill -- who had his turn in office.

Linda and Bill Scheible, on the other hand, both support Clinton, although for much different reasons.

"She worked hard in the White House every day as first lady -- not like Laura Bush," Linda Scheible said.

As for Bill Scheible, the reason for voting for Clinton was simple: "She's hot."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

4:15 p.m.: Independent roots for Romney from the sidelines

David Heistuman of Gilbert, a registered Independent, said if he could have voted today he probably would have voted for Mitt Romney.

"He's a very believable person," said Heistuman, a US Airways pilot who was studying for his annual proficiency training airline test Tuesday afternoon at Rich Aroma Coffee Co. in Queen Creek.

"He's the only one who's come out and really publicly identified with some of the problems facing the country, particularly the financial problems," said the 38-year-old.

Heistuman said he's excited for this year's election, and thinks there's going to be a lot of first-time voters.

"People are either affected by illegal immigration, or they may have lost their house or their job," he said. "I think a lot of people will be voting this year because of these hot button issues."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

4:15 p.m.: Immigration on minds of MCC students

Erin Wehmann, an out-of-state student who now lives in Queen Creek, had to pay extra money to attend Mesa Community College. Her experience is fueling her political views.

“In-state tuition for illegal aliens is a big thing to me,” said Wehmann, 22. “I live here and pay taxes here and it makes me upset to think they would go to school and pay less.”

Wehmann said she would vote for Mitt Romney in what will be her first presidential vote.

“I like that, as far as immigration goes, his approach is to figure out what to do with the people already here and prevent more people from coming,” she said.

Matt Mead, 22, of Tempe, is a Republican who said he was favoring Mike Huckabee.

“I listen to 550 AM and Sean Hannity and he interviewed Mike Huckabee,” Mead said. “I like what he had to say about immigration. He seemed like he wanted to deal with the problem.”

MCC student Morgan Dehnert, 20, of Scottsdale, is a registered Republican but said she likes Barack Obama.

“He addresses more of the youth,” she said. “And since I’m an adult now, I finally get to vote for something important.”

Dehnert said she would probably end up voting for John McCain today.

“I haven’t researched anything on the other guy and a lot of people are talking about McCain,” she said. “I think my dad’s voting for him so that’s good.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Lindsay Butler

4 p.m.: Obama inspires first-time voter

In one of the more unusual polling locations -- the leasing office of an apartment complex near Chandler Fashion Square – voters waited in a line at least 10 people deep in the middle of the afternoon Tuesday to cast their votes.

Joseph Burks, 29, cast a vote for Barack Obama. The Chandler resident said it was his first presidential vote ever. He said Obama’s campaign inspired him to finally register to vote.

“I really believe in him and in what he says he can do," Burks said. "He’s sincere about it. I believe he will create the changes we need. He seems to be legitimate."

Alicia Lucas-Barnett said her vote wasn’t a hard decision at all. She also cast her vote for Obama.

“He’s all about change, and I think he’s a fresh breathe of air,” Lucas-Barnett said. “And I like that he doesn’t use his race as an issue -- instead, he is about bringing change to the world and he looks at things as world issues, not race issues.”

Lucas-Barnett, a distance-learning coordinator at Mesa Community College, said she believes the most important issue in the election is the economy -- including taxes and a sluggish job market.

Dexter Lee, 23, meanwhile, came to the polls to support Ron Paul.

“I looked at all the candidates and where they stand, and he’s the closest choice for the way I feel about things,” said Lee, a recent ASU graduate.

Lee said the war in Iraq is probably the top issue in the election and he likes what he’s heard Ron Paul say about it.

“I have friends who were over in Iraq, and hearing what they have to say about it," he said. "It’s personal.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Andrea Natekar

3:45 p.m.: Obama's war stance sways Scottsdale voters

Barack Obama has impressed Scottsdale voters at Christ The Lord Lutheran Church -- at least the Democrats.

Marian Kelly said she voted for Obama, plain and simple, because "he's the best candidate."

Jill Swingler also voted for Obama because of his stance on the Iraq war. "He's been against the war from the start," Swingler said.

One Scottsdale Republican, who called himself John Edwards -- the same as the former Democratic candidate -- said he cast his ballot for John McCain because "he's a good senator for Arizona."

Stephanie Harris, meanwhile, said she voted for Romney. "I think he has the best handle on immigration," she said.

She said she picked Romney over Mccain because she doesn't trust the Arizona senator. "I think he's a liar," she said. "I dont trust him."

Paul Leisure said he was having a hard time deciding between McCain and Romney. "I'm going back and forth," he said.

He said he was going to wait until 5 p.m. to vote for more time to think.

He said he thinks McCain will help Arizona if he gets the presidency, but he is also worried that little would change in Washington with McCain in office.

"The past seven years have not been good," Leisure said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Stephanie Clarke

3:30 p.m.: Mesa has Democrats?

Mesa Democrats turned out Tuesday at the Dobson Branch Library, bucking the thought that Mesa is home only to Republicans.

The issues important to Mesa’s Democrats included health care, education, the war in Iraq and a woman who stands firm against opposition.

“Hillary comes from a standpoint that there’s a lot of tough love for her -– no one really likes her -– she’s not a soft person -– but she’s the kind of person we need in office,” said Lareina Reyes, 22. “We’ve got a hell of a next 50 years.”

Several Mesa Democrats at the Dobson site said they favored Clinton over Barack Obama.

“Barack for me is Camelot and Hillary is the strong American woman,” said Adrian Reyes.

But Mesa Community College nursing student Eddie Koch, 25, said Obama’s message on health care and immigration resonated with him.

“I work in the emergency room at Banner Gateway and I see both of those issues in the ER,” he said. “(Obama) does present himself pretty good, and he’s younger and more in tune with how I feel.”

But choosing between the two Democratic frontrunners was not easy for all.

“I was completely torn. I sat there for five minutes,” Lareina Reyes said. “Did I do the right thing?”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Lindsay Butler

3:15 p.m.: Q.C. vote for Huckabee is "moral" duty

Brent Richardson of Queen Creek was among a steady stream of voters casting ballots at Desert Mountain Elementary School, one of two polling sites in Queen Creek.

Richardson said he voted for Republican Mike Huckabee. "I voted for Huckabee for moral issues," he said. "I believe God will judge the candidates where they stand morally, not fiscally."

Richardson, a 43-year-old pastor at The Rock Eternal, an independent church in Queen Creek, said this year the media seemed to harbor more on the candidates' religious beliefs. He said the media went after the Republicans hard on faith but didn't talk much about the Democrats' religious backgrounds.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

3 p.m.: Queen Creek fence-sitter falls on Clinton's side

Liz Owens, a registered Democrat from Queen Creek, said she voted for Hillary Clinton, although she is still on the fence. She said she was leaning toward John Edwards before he dropped out of the race.

"I like Hillary but I thought she could have done more with health care when she was the first lady," said Owens, who added that health care is the most important issue to her.

Owens, 52, said she liked the selection of the candidates this year.

"It seems more neck-and-neck," said Owens, a Qwest sales engineer. "There's good candidates on both sides, which we haven't really seen in the past."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

3 p.m.: A reluctant vote for McCain

John Walker, who was outside the Queen Creek Sports Lounge smoking a cigarette, said he voted this morning for John McCain.

"He's a veteran. I'm a veteran. He's doing the right stuff," said Walker, who spent 22 years in the Army, retiring as a chief warrant officer.

The 65-year-old Queen Creek resident said there are not many choices that the likes this year, but he picked the best candidate available.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

3 p.m.: A.J. lunch crowd going for Democrats

Sipping ice tea inside Dirtwater Springs, a popular local diner, Lewis Smith said it doesn’t matter which presidential candidate wins -- most don’t care about small towns anyway.

“All they care about is their voter base, not what the hell is happening locally,” Smith says.

Still he voted for Hillary Clinton this morning because Democrats, he believes, are still the ones who care most about the working class.

“All the Republicans care for is collecting Social Security tax and income tax,” he says.

Economy, health care and education topped Danielle Reynolds’ concerns. She and her sister, Aaron Hunt, run a child care center in Apache Junction. Neither had voted yet but planned to do so if they got time after their lunch breaks. Danielle knows for sure she’s voting for Barack Obama; Aaron hadn’t yet decided.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Danielle chided her sister. “You better make up your mind fast. You only have three or four hours left.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

2:30 p.m.: Chandler poll worker an able judge

The volume of voters at this polling station inside Goodman Elementary school in Chandler isn’t setting any records, but it's certainly a lot higher than any other primary election, according to one polling judge here.

And there are few who would be in better position to judge that than Teddi Lampone. At 81 years old, she’s seen her share of elections particularly at this voting location near Price and Warner roads. For the past 15 years she has volunteered to work on every type of election here – from local bonding to the more thrilling presidential elections.

“My mind works better than my body at this point,” she jokes while distributing ballots to one of the many who have steadily walked through the doors. “There's a lot more people during the presidential election.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Dennis Welch

2 p.m.: Ron Paul can count on one guy in Tempe

A lonely supporter of GOP-candidate Ron Paul voiced frustrations that his guy has been ignored by the media.

Roger Finnern, 59, was standing outside a polling station near McClintock Drive and Ray Road, handing out stickers and and talking to incoming voters about the Republican candidate who has called for, among other things, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

“This isn’t a change election. The only possible change is getting out of the Bush-Clinton dynasty,” said Finnern. “Everyone else is just the same, there’s just no difference this year.”

Wayne Baxter, a polling inspector, said voters were lining up before the doors opened at 6 a.m. Since then there has been a steady stream of people coming in and he expects it to pick up this evening after people get off work. By early afternoon, more than 350 ballots had been cast.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Dennis Welch

1:30 p.m.: Republican Party in turmoil?

Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert and the nearby Coffee Shop attracted two extremes in Republican circles as lunchtime got under way.

Brian Conzett and his wife said they were among Republicans who were tired of what they described as their party’s politics and antics. While they couldn’t vote for Barack Obama in the primary, both said they wanted him to win in the general election.

“I’d like to see Obama,” Conzett said.

The reasonn? “Change,” the Gilbert resident said, as the couple picked up their lunch from the Farm Grill. “The Republican Party’s all falling apart. Republicans don’t like what’s been happening during the last eight years.”

But friends Liz Robinson and Cheryl Blinston, both of Queen Creek, disagreed as they met over coffee in the adjoining Coffee Shop.

They said Romney was the only candidate whose economic plan would help the economy recover.

And Blinston said she wanted Romney to close the border to Mexico.

“My taxes are supporting other people coming in illegally,” she said. “I’d love if they came in legally.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Beth Lucas

1:30 p.m.: Clinton sparks debate at Joe’s Real BBQ in Gilbert

As the lunch crowds began to form at Joe’s Real BBQ in downtown Gilbert, a pair of mothers eating lunch with their children debated whether it was important to vote for the only woman on the ballot -- Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I like Hillary," Jennifer Daly said. "We haven’t had a woman, that would be cool. They can see views men can’t.”

But Rebekah Campa disagreed.

“I’m not for Hillary at all,” she said. “I just think she’s going to tax the crap out of us. And I’m not for the taxes.”

Amy Navarro was outside at the takeout window getting lunch. She argued that any woman who votes for Hillary only because she’s a woman is young or naive.

As she debated with another woman in line, she said she she didn’t think there were any good candidates on the ballot.

“I look at who’s out there, and it scares me,” Navarro said. “I want a good candidate, but I don’t know that one’s running. I’d like my grandpa to run, someone with integrity and honor.”

As she entered the restaurant, Sara Dreyer of Gilbert said her vote went to Mitt Romney -- a man she said would continue doing a job that President George Bush started.

“I want strong borders, strong security and a strong economy,” she said. “And I don’t think George Bush did that bad on everything that people say.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Beth Lucas

1:15 p.m.: Scottsdale voters see Obama as reformer

A steady stream of lunchtime voters entered a polling place at City of Grace Church at 96th Street and Cactus Road in Scottsdale around 12:15 p.m.

Greg Duclos, 49, of Scottsdale was among the crowd of about 30 people, who came to cast his vote on his lunch hour. Duclos, a Democrat who works as a salesman, said his support is for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

“I want change. The existing politicians don’t want to change,” said Duclos, who said the problem of global warming was at the top of his issues he wants the government to address.

Audrey Whitney, 79, of Scottsdale, said she is also throwing her support behind Obama. “He’s young and a beautiful person. I like his ideas. I think he’s sincere,” said Whitney, who works part time coding HTML text.

Debbie Popiel, 41, of Scottsdale, took her 6-year-old daughter Gabriella to the polls to cast a vote for Obama.

“I think he will be a wonderful leader. I like his youth, his outlook and how he presents himself,” said Popiel, who is a pre-school director. “He isn’t tarnished yet by the system. That’s a plus for me,” she said.

Among Republicans, Steve Colombo, 43, of Scottsdale, said Arizona Sen. John McCain was his clear choice.

“I think he’s the best candidate and the best man for the job,” said Colombo, an investment banker. “He’s principled and he’s not afraid to go against the party line for his principles.”

Long-time Republican James Whitbord, 50, of Scottsdale cast a vote for McCain, but said he was unsure if he is going to continue to support the Republican party come November.

“I am going to wait and see if Obama gets the nomination. If that’s the case, I may vote for him,” said Whitbord, who is currently not working and on disability.

Whitbord said he is worried about health care for his children and other issues such as Medicare.

“I’ve been wondering what the Republican Party has done for me lately,” said Whitbord.

Patricia Olson, 29, and her husband Tim, 35, of Scottsdale said they backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“McCain’s history hasn’t settled well with me,” said Patricia, who is a real estate agent. “We feel Romney represents the traditional Republican conservative values. Romney is the guy,” she said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Julie Janovsky

1 p.m.: Clinton, Obama battle in Scottsdale

Democrats voting at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Scottsdale seemed divided Tuesday afternoon between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Scottsdale voter Lauren Palmer said she voted for Obama. "He has a good health plan," Palmer said. "That's important."

But Arthur and Faye Weisverg said they voted for Clinton.

"We know what she and her husband did," Arthur Weisverg said. "She's a proven candidate."

Things seemed more clear cut on the Republican side for McCain. Republicans who voted at the church said they thought McCain had the best chance to beat the eventual Democratic nominee.

"I would vote for anyone that could beat a Democrat," Jennifer Wild said.

She laughed about Mitt Romney's chances against the Democrats.

"I tjink he'd get destroyed," Wild said.

Oskar Hildinger also voted for McCain, mainly because he from Arizona.

"And I like his politics," Hildinger said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Stephanie Clarke

1 p.m.: A.J. seniors express apathy

Arizona's presidential preference election was the last thing on the mind of Donna Daugherty and G.F. Verlin, two women who spent time Tuesday at the Apache Junction Multigenerational Center.

"Is it really that important," said Daugherty, a Republican.

She said she has no plans to go out and vote today. Nor does Verlin, a Democrat.

"We both cancel each other's vote out anyway," Verlin said.

Martha Daniel sat in a wheelchair on a bus outside the center. She said getting to a polling place would be a stretch for her.

If she could vote, she said she would cast a ballot for John McCain.

"He's got character," Daniel said.

Daniel said she depends on Social Security, and she hopes whoever gets elected will keep in mind the needs of senior citizens such as herself.

Tony Soranno, who drives the bus, said he will definitely get to a polling place after his shift ends and vote for McCain.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

12:45 p.m.: ASU runs shuttles for student voters

Free shuttles are available today to take Arizona State University students to polling sites.

Students can sign up for the "Van to Vote" shuttles at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

“The Arizona Students Association’s top priority this year is voter registration,” said Robyn Thicke, an office manager with the students association.

Mark Appleton, a voter registration coordinator, said the idea for shuttles came from the Arizona Students Association voter registration committee.

“We want to get students interested in voting," Appleton said. "We want students to pay attention to politics. I don’t care if they vote for Ron Paul. I just want them to exercise their most basic right.”

Thicke, who worked with Appleton to launch the shuttles at ASU, said other methods being used to encourage students to vote include letters in the mail, e-mail messages and reminder calls.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Gerald Bohulano

12:30 p.m.: Local candidates turn out to gather signatures

Judge Sam Goodman from the Santan Justice Court in Chandler was collecting signatures for his re-election outside the Queen Creek Town Hall polling site. He has collected about 150 signatures since 6:30 a.m.

Goodman, 53, said he voted with an early ballot for the most conservative Republican candidate in the race, Mitt Romney. He had wanted to vote for Fred Thompson or Duncan Hunter, but both had already dropped out ot the race.

"The Republican side has both have strengths and weaknesses," he said. "Romney is strong on the economy and about the border. McCain is too moderate for me and a little bit of a short fuse, but I respect anybody that runs."

Goodman, a Gilbert resident who also collected signatures outside the polling place at CTA-Freedom Elementary School in Gilbert, said of those voting today, "It's been real positive. It's been a real strong turnout."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

12:15 p.m.: First Arizona election for New Jersey transplant

Laura Coppens, 33, of Queen Creek voted around lunch time with her three young children at the Queen Creek Town Hall polling site. She said she voted, "because you're suppose to. It's your duty."

Coppens, a Republican, did not want to share who she voted for. But she said she has paid more attention to this election than past presidential elections.

"I've been thinking the most about this election because we are at a pivotal point," said the stay-at-home mom.

This is the first election Coppens has voted in in the Valley. She moved here from New Jersey about a year ago.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Hayley Ringle

Noon: Canadians watch Arizona's elections with interest

Winter residents from Canada watched Arizona's presidential preference election with interest Tuesday.

“I’ll say one thing, American politics is much more interesting than Canadian (politics),” said 27-year-old Nathan Braun, of Gilbert.

Being Canadian, Braun can’t vote in today’s primary election. If he could, he’d probably support Republican Mitt Romney.

But since he’s Canadian, he can only try to influence his American wife’s vote.

Renee Braun, 31, is a Democrat who planned to vote for Barack Obama today.

Why?

“That’s a hard question,” she said. “I want to support a candidate who will make changes.”

And, to Renee Braun, Hillary Clinton’s polished experience is as much a negative as it is a positive.

“If I vote for Hillary, I won’t expect change,” Renee Braun said. “She represents part of the problem.”

She added: “At least Obama has a track record of going against the grain.”

The couple were spending Tuesday morning at a new Gilbert McDonald’s watching their toddler son, Julian, play on the playground.

Nathan Braun tried to convince his wife to support Clinton with bribes of fancy coffee drinks.

“I don’t think Obama can take the country,” he said.

But apparently it’ll take more than a couple of lattes to sway this Obama supporter’s vote.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Chris Markham

11:45 a.m.: Obama's message resonates in A.J.

About 30 to 40 cars lined the dirt path Tuesday outside a polling place at First Baptist Church in Apache Junction.

By 11:30 a.m., about 200 people had voted at the church, with some rushing from work to cast their ballots.

Apache Junction resident Melvin Thomas, 79, said it took him just 8 minutes to get in and out as he cast his vote for Barack Obama.

"If Obama can do 50 percent of what he says, I'll be happy," Thomas said. "I'm so tired of the Bush-Clinton regime -- those plastic politicians."

Thomas said he is also concerned about apathy among young voters.

"They don't seem to care about issues that affect us all: the economy, health care," he said. "All our money is being drained in the war."

Obama's message seemed to resignate with many voters at the church.

Oma Higgins, 78, said the Illinois senator gives her hope for the future. She said Clinton in too "harsh and political."

Katie Simmons, a stay-at-home mom who drives her two children to school every day from Apache Junction to downtonwn Mesa, said education and health care are her big concerns.

She too is hoping for an Obama win, and said he best represents middle-class concerns. But Simmons is not sure Obama can go all the way and win the presidency.

"I'll have to go with my heart anyway," she said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

11:30 a.m.: Some early voters face problems

Many Gilbert voters avoided the polling place crowds Tuesday by casting early ballots by mail.

At a Safeway grocery strore near Baseline and Higley roads, shopper Gerald Hix said he voted early for John McCain and can now sit back and wait for a winner to emerge.

Wendy Calcutt voted early, too, but she said the mail-in system backfired on her. She voted for Rudy Giuliani, who has since withdrawn from the race.

David Mason could find other problems with his mail-in ballot.

The Gilbert man said he planned to vote by mail, but he had not yet sent his ballot as of 11:30 a.m. Early ballots must arrive in the mail by 7 p.m. today to be counted.

Mason said he planned to vote for McCain, but he wasn't sure why.

"I'm not a politician so it's hard to say," he said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Alexandra Weiler

11 a.m.: Independents turned away in Gilbert

Some independent voters apparently did not get the message that today's elections are only for registered Republicans and Democrats in Arizona.

Independents showed up Tuesday morning at Gateway Pointe Elementary School in Gilbert but were turned away.

Recent ZIP code changes in the area also caused confusion for some voters, who went to the wrong precinct to cast ballots. Some said they did not receive cards in the mail informing them that their polling place changed when they got new ZIP codes last year.

Lines were long at the Southeast Regional Library in Gilbert, where only five polling workers were available to inspect voters' ID and resolve concerns.

At 8:40 a.m., about 50 people stood in line to cast ballots, and the wait time was about 45 minutes.

Voters at 11 a.m. had to wait about 20 minutes to cast ballots at Sun Valley Church of Christ near Recker and Baseline roads in Gilbert.

Jody McClelland said she voted for Barack Obama.

"He has great integrity and true passion to take us to the right places," she said.

Michael Shannon said he has always voted for John McCain in past elections, but he voted for Mitt Romney this time because of McCain's stance on illegal immigration.

"I just can't get over it," Shannon said.

Gilbert voter Amy Stuart said she cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton because of her plans to overhaul the health care system.

Mary Melton also voted for Clinton.

"I just like her," Melton said. "I think she's better qualified, and she's been there long enough to know what needs to be done."

Jolene Penson came to Sun Valley Church of Christ for a different reason. She said she was trying to gather signatures to get her name on the September ballot as a candidate for justice of the peace.

Submitted by Tribune reporters Cheryl Kushner, Michelle Reese and Alexandra Weiler

10:30 a.m.: Passions run high for Clinton, Obama

Sue Bartell, 62, pulled into VFW Post 7968 in Apache Junction and asked around if anyone knows where she needs to go to vote.

Although unsure about where to cast her ballot, she said she was certain about who would get her vote.

"Hillary Clinton, absolutely," Bartell said.

She said John McCain is too old for the job, and he's a warmonger. Mitt Romney is out of the question because of his religion. And she said Barack Obama is too inexeperienced.

That draw a sharp protest from Betty Haller, a VFW volunteer.

"Hillary? I think she's a barf," Haller said.

She said she would vote later this afternoon for Obama. That draws a sneer back from Bartell.

"No way," she said. "This has nothing to do with race, but Obama is simply too junior a politician to get my vote."

Mike Huckabee will get at least one vote in Apache Junction.

Charles Reichly, 70, said he's still hoping Huckabee can earn a comeback victory.

"Who knows, he might come out and win yet, like the Giants," Reichly said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

10:15 a.m.: Gilbert voters find short lines

Gilbert voters faced short wait times midmorning at Victory Tabernacle Church near Lindsay and Elliot roads in Gilbert.

Rene Gomez said she voted for John McCain because he thinks he's the "right man for the job."

Carolyn Esslinger also voted for McCain. She cited his positions on the economy and the war in Iraq.

"I really think he is the best candidate with his values -- and what he says about the war and the economy," Esslinger said.

But other Gilbert residents had their own views.

A man who called himself Frank said he voted for Republican Ron Paul.

"The other ones bounce around," Frank said. "But he seems the most straightforward and tells the truth about things."

Meanwhile, Republican Mia Palmer voted for Mitt Romney.

"I think he has the most experience to run the country," Palmer said. "He's a good guy, a family guy."

Tina Lang, a Democrat, said she voted for Hillary Clinton because of her plan to overhaul the nation's health care system.

"We are in a crisis with health care," Lang said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Alexandra Weiler

8:40 a.m.: No youth movement at ASU ... at least not yet

Those candidates hoping for the “youth vote” might have their work cut out for them at Arizona State University.

Just after 8:40 a.m. at a polling location on Sixth Avenue, in the midst of campus, there were no lines.

In fact, just three voters came in and out of the polls, located at a church, during a 20-minute span. No students were campaigning, handing leaflets or holding signs nearby.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Andrea Natekar

8:30 a.m.: A.J. voters focus on immigration, war

Apache Junction voters were trickling into a polling place Tuesday morning at St. George's Catholic Community Church. Despite cool temperatures, more than 230 had cast ballots by 8:30 a.m.

Kristy, a 29-year-old mother who declined to give her last name, showed up with her two small children, Avonell and Becca.

The Republican said she voted for Mitt Romney over John McCain because she believes McCain is not strong enough on immigration. Kristy said the immigration issue hits close to home.

"I'm sick and tired of my husband's tools getting stolen," Kristy said. "I want our borders to be secure."

About 70 to 80 cars were parked at the church, but voters faced short wait times.

Gary Mohn, another Republican, said immigration was also on the top of his mind. He said he voted on his way home after working a graveyard shift at a local Wells Fargo bank.

But he said his first mission is to keep Democrat Hillary Clinton out of office.

"She would be a disaster," Mohn said.

He said he voted for McCain because the Arizona senator could get crossover votes and beat Clinton in the general election.

Jim Pederson, a Democrat from Apache Junction, said stopping the war in Iraq should be the top mission for the next president.

"We've spent far too much money and wasted too many lives without finding anything there," said Pederson, who declined to say who he voted for. "This has to stop."

Submitted by Tribune reporter Sonu Munshi

7:45 a.m.: New citizen casts first ballot in Scottsdale

At Bethany Lutheran Church in south Scottsdale, a slow stream of voters braved the early morning cold to cast their votes.

For Scottsdale resident Rima Iacovelli, it was her very first chance to vote after becoming an American citizen in June. Iacovelli, who moved to the United States from Lebanon, said she remained undecided until after her breakfast this morning.

“It really was a struggle, until this morning I was torn,” the Democrat said.

She ended up voting for Hillary Clinton.

“I just think I like who she has behind her – her husband – and all that he did for the country during those eight years,” she said.

Iacovelli said it felt great to cast her first vote.

“It’s so empowering,” she said.

Submitted by Tribune reporter Andrea Natekar

7:30 a.m.: Health care stance gives Clinton boost in Scottsdale

Lynn Pellino of Scottsdale said she struggled before casting her ballot for Hillary Clinton.

“It was a really hard decision because I’m not even sure if I will vote Democratic in the final election,” she said.

But she went for Clinton because of her experience, she said.

"I like Barack," Pellino said. "But he hasn’t been around as long. (Clinton) knows what it’s like to be there in the White House. She knows what goes on.”

Pellino said the issue of access to affordable health care was the most important issue to her in this year’s election. When she lost her job earlier this year, she said she struggled to pay the $470 monthly fee to temporarily continue her health insurance until she could find work again.

And while she had some savings to help her out, she said she worries about those who aren’t as fortunate.

“I’m fine now," she said. "I have another job. But I just don’t think someone who has worked for 30 years should have to struggle with that, here in America, today. All I can think about is some of these people I see on the street, or some of these people who don’t have some savings to fall back on.”

Submitted by Tribune reporter Andrea Natekar

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