Jacksonville hits the polls
by Paige Rentz
Despite a victory by President Barack Obama Tuesday, Jacksonville residents flocked to the polls Tuesday and overwhelmingly favored Republican Mitt Romney.

More than 4,700 city residents cast ballots on Election Day, with 57 percent voting for Romney, compared to 41.5 percent for Obama.

At First Baptist Church, the city’s largest polling place, David Cole voted a straight Republican ticket, which he said he has done since 1984. The 48-year-old large parts grinder at Southern Tool said he felt the Republican Party represents the working man. “If you’re on welfare, food stamps or entitlements, the Democrats are all about that,” he said. “But if you get up every morning and go to work, the Republican Party is the one you want to vote for.”

Ken Reeves also voted a straight Republican ticket, but that wasn’t necessarily intentional, he said. He said he’s a Romney fan, but the other races just fell in line with the Republicans as well. Ultimately, he favored Romney’s morals and debate performances, but he said, “to be honest it was a lot closer for me in my mind at the end than I would have thought it would be at the beginning.”

Over at West Side Baptist Church, Betty Tyler, a 69-year-old retiree, cast her ballot for Romney and the Republicans as well. As a Christian, she said, she disagrees with Obama’s stance on abortion and birth control and believes the country “needs someone who stands up for Biblical morals.”

But there were many Jacksonville residents who had reason to celebrate Tuesday.

Lesia Aldrige, 48, is a housewife and former certified nursing assistant. She said she voted Democratic all the way when she cast her ballot at the Westside Baptist Church. “I think Obama is doing the best he can under the circumstances that surround him,” said the lifelong Democrat. “I think he needs the other four years to show a little more.”

Aldridge said she wishes that presidents weren’t limited to eight years in office “because it’s really hard to change things that occurred in four years. There’s not enough time for that.”

She agreed that the economy has been a big issue and said she has suffered herself. “But I have faith,” she said. “You need to give him a chance to correct what the Republicans screwed up.”

High school history teacher Kaiti Smith said she had “about a million reasons” to vote for Obama, but specifically cited social issues, healthcare and education reform. As an educator, she said, she feels the president’s Race to the Top program is on target. “It pains me that Alabama is not taking advantage of that.”

Smith said she is very squarely in the middle class. “I fear for what would happen for someone like me if [Romney’s] vague tax cuts were enacted.

A number of young voters were casting their ballots for the first time in Jacksonville.

Siblings Ashleigh and William Todd both cast their first presidential ballots at the First Baptist Church. William Todd, 21, said he “felt a sense of empowerment” as he left the polling place. He and his sister both said they voted for Obama because he has done well for their family during the past four years. Ashleigh Todd, 19, added that she liked the president’s views on healthcare.

Lily Barragree, 18, cast her first presidential ballot for Barack Obama. The JSU student from Arab voted for the president, she said, “because I feel like if Romney gets in, women are screwed. I’m pro-choice, and I believe we should be able to do what they want with their bodies.”

Emma Hardin, 18, primarily cited social issues as the primary reason she voted for Obama. She agreed with Barragree about women’s power over their own bodies said she also likes Obama’s stance on gay marriage. “If you love someone, you should be able to marry them,” she said.

Jacksonville State University student Deonta Freeman said he’s not deep into Democratic Party politics, but he voted straight Democratic Tuesday afternoon after what he saw in the debates. The elementary education major said his primary reason for voting was funding for education. “Of course I voted Democratic,” he said. “Because I’m a college student and I love my Pell grants, and I would love to see them stay here unlike the Republicans.” Freeman said restrictions to the Pell program that began this summer affected him tremendously, as he had to pay out of pocket for his summer classes. He said he felt Obama would better protect the Pell program.
© 2012