BY RECORD-EAGLE STAFF
TRAVERSE CITY -- Voters across the Grand Traverse region packed polling sites, stood patiently in serpentine lines, and through their many voices offered a local snapshot of the nation’s deep political divide.
Suttons Bay resident Chuck Beyer opted for President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but expressed thoughts shared by many voters.
“I don’t like either candidate,” said Beyer, 51. “Give me a candidate that supports the second amendment, is pro-choice and believes in fiscal responsibility. I’m going to vote for Obama because he’s the least dangerous to my beliefs.
“Although I’m typically quite conservative, I don’t like the Republican party this time. They’ve gone too far to the right and they’re going to follow party line,” Beyer said.
Michael McKinney said the presidential race and its implications for the economy were at the top of his mind when he voted at the Civic Center in Traverse City.
McKinney, former pawnshop owner, said he thought the election came down to choosing between two diverse economic paths.
“The Democrats and Republicans are so different about what makes the economy run,” he said.
McKinney ultimately sided with Romney.
“I voted Republican this time,” McKinney said. “I think the Republicans are the party that will put us back to work.”
Traverse City resident Jenny Olney strongly supported Obama.
“I’m for saving the planet,” she said. “I don’t think letting the rich people stay rich and the poor people stay poor helps things.”
Romney had a strong showing in East Bay Township.
“He shares my values,” said DeeAnne Graczyk, 39. “We need to take this country back. We’re going in the wrong direction.”
Tony Miliusis, 64, also supported Romney.
“I voted in general for more conservative values,” he said. “I think our government spends too much money.”
Robert Rienas, 62, opted for a straight Democrat ticket.
“I don’t trust anybody who only pays 15 percent income tax and won’t divulge his income tax records,” he said.
Randi Knapp, of Beulah, brought her two sons, Peyton, 3, and Johnathan, 8 months, to the voting booth with her. Knapp said she thought it neat that Peyton was born the year Obama was elected, and the family saved for Peyton magazines that documented Obama’s election.
Leroy Ely, of Honor, voted because, “It’s our duty. If you don’t, who’s to say what could happen.”
Lisa Ault, a wine consultant who voted at Eastern Elementary in Traverse City, said her vote was for Obama.
“Women’s health care issues are on my mind. I feel that contraception should be more accessible and shouldn’t be harder to get."
Voting at Benzie County’s Homestead Township was particularly special for Tim and Kathy Smith because they also brought their special needs niece, Katelyn Smith, 23, to vote.
Katelyn Smith is borderline mentally disabled and participates regularly in Special Olympics in northern Michigan. She said, “It feels good,” to vote.
“It feels great,” Kathy Smith added. “People with special needs have a right to make a choice, too.”
Jeff Challender, 50, a truck driver, doesn’t care for Obama’s policies.
“I just don’t think the country has been going in the right direction for the last four years,” said Challender, who said he usually votes Republican. “I don’t like the way health care was pushed through.”
“I don’t think Obama’s done a good job, I don’t think he deserves another term,” agreed Lynn Starkey, of Acme Township. “We need to get small business moving, that will get the economy moving.”
‘Finish what he started’
“We gave the last president eight years to get us into this mess. I think we need to give Obama eight years to get us out of it,” said Jenifer Hamlet, of Elk Rapids. “He’s generally doing great and his ideas relate to what’s best for me and my kids.”
Tammy Peck of Acme Township said she’s not a big Romney fan and voted for Obama.
“I think he needs to finish what he started,” she said.
Blair resident Tony Charles, who is gay, voted for Obama because of the president’s stance on gay rights. He also believes Romney is out of touch.
“To me, he doesn’t seem to know what the little man needs,” he said.
Elizabeth Cockfield, 18, visited the polls at the Traverse City Civic Center with her father, Jeff, and voted for the first time. She signed up to vote on the last day of registration. On election night she was glad she didn’t miss her first opportunity to cast a ballot.
“It felt pretty powerful,” Elizabeth Cockfield said. “I matter, as cheesy as it sounds.”
The father-daughter pair said they were most inspired by the closely contested presidential race, though neither voiced which candidate they selected.
“My No. 1 priority is jobs,” said tax accountant Rick Michael, of Traverse City. “Everything I did in (the voting booth) was for capitalism.” He said capitalism funds “socialism” by creating jobs and strong economies, which in turn leads to more taxes for social programs.
‘A privilege to vote’
“As corny as it sounds, I can get teary-eyed when I go to vote,” Boughey Street resident Amy Moore said as she left the polls at Glenn Loomis Elementary School in the city’s 10th Precinct.
“It’s a privilege to vote and see people taking it seriously, no matter what side they’re on,” she said.
Her primary concern was the presidential race.
“Going through a big election keeps me reflecting on my tolerance for disparate view,” she said.
Tom Antaya, a dishwasher at the Cottage Restaurant in Traverse City, said he came to the polls at Glenn Loomis to vote for Obama.
“I trust him, I trust his words and I don’t trust Mitt,” he said.
Montaigne Birdsey, another Glenn Loomis voter, said the economy was the major issue for him as he walked into the booth to vote for Mitt Romney.
“I’m concerned about the direction of the country, the rising cost of consumer goods and joblessness,” he said.
Tuesday’s election was a first for Ivan Pashchuk, 28. Originally from Ukraine, he has lived in Traverse City since 1999 and is now a U.S. citizen.
“It’s the people’s right to vote,” he said. “You just have to chose the best option and know what you want to be better.”
Mary Flowers thought “very strongly” about electing President Obama to a second term.
“I see him and he’s focused,” said Flowers, of Maple City. “It’s a strong focus, but it’s gentle.”
Flowers was one of dozens of voters who stood in line for nearly an hour Tuesday morning at the Kasson Township precinct, where voting was delayed at one point because of a minor glitch. According to officials, two ballots stuck together, causing a voter to complete the front of one and the back of another, potentially getting voters and ballots out of sync.
Flowers said she’s surprised at the animosity between voters with different beliefs.
That’s because the stakes are so personal, said Myk Ackerman, of Elmwood Township. Calling himself a Republican Libertarian, Ackerman said he cast his vote for “second amendment rights,” from “the president right down to the prosecutor.”
Denise Bobier-Schoelles was one of several voters who said they were turned off by this year’s mud-slinging campaigns.
“Since the ‘80s, I can’t remember a campaign being so negative,” said Bobier-Schoelles, of Maple City, who voted for the first time in one of the Ronald Reagan presidential elections.
“You’re force-fed so much negativity during the campaign and the ads. I have five kids and even the ones that aren’t old enough to vote say, ‘Why is this so negative?’ I think, ‘Give me your opinions on the topic and don’t say what the other guy is going to do. Use the values you got in kindergarten. Be nice and stop being mean.’”
Record-Eagle staff writers Marta Hepler-Drahos, Loraine Anderson, Brian McGillivary, Glenn Puit, Kathy Gibbons, Michael Walton, Art Bukowski and Anne Stanton contributed to this report.