PEOPLE hit the streets as millions of Americans hit the polls across the country Tuesday to cast their vote
Happy Election Day, America!
PEOPLE hit the streets as millions of Americans hit the polls across the country Tuesday to cast their votes in the all-important presidential race as well as other key races to be decided at long last.
Polls opened as early as 6 a.m., and while some 45 million Americans have already cast their ballots during early voting, it didn’t take long for the lines to start forming around the block.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
At Donald Trump‘s polling place in Midtown Manhattan, a PEOPLE staffer was in line as two protesters pushed past Trump’s Secret Service, stripped off their shirts, and streaked through the room. The ladies had “Trump” written in black across their chest. They were detained by security at the location — elementary school P.S. 59. on 56th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
Trump voted there hours later.
SALEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE
There were no lines at an elementary school in Salem, New Hampshire — where veteran Joe Pesce, of Melrose, Massachusetts, told PEOPLE why he was voting for Trump.
“Do you want socialism, or do you want what the forefathers wrote in the Constitution and Bill of Rights?” he said. “I want our economy to come back. I want this country to be great again. Our military has been depleted. We failed in trade. Our job growth is horrible. It’s the worst it’s been since before World War II.”
“Say what you want about Donald Trump, but he’s a businessman,” he continued. “We need a businessman, because this country truly is a business. We need a change. Hopefully the change will come today.”
Salem — part of Rockingham County – went red in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Pesce said that no matter who people vote for, he wants people to just get out to vote.
“People have a right to vote,” he said. “That’s the most power they’ll ever have and I hope — whoever they vote for, I just hope they just go out and vote. Exercise their right and hopefully we can make a change and make this country what it should be – the greatest country in the world.”
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
In Bushwick, Brooklyn, millennial voters stressed the importance of voting to PEOPLE.
Teresa Mulgrew, 25, reflected on how important the vote is for her generation. “We’re gonna be the ones reaping the consequences of all of this,” she said. “So, it’s really important for us to take a stand, to stand up for what is gonna effect our country and for us and for our children. We don’t want to risk a massive f——- step back.”
“This [election] is a lot scarier for everyone, so I think everyone’s making this a priority,” she added of the packed polling places.
Bushwick voter Daniel Burns, 27, agreed with Mulgrew. “I think that we’re realizing that the country is very polarized on a number of issues, and I think that we’re for the first time really, truly, tangibly seeing that this decision is in our hands and how it will effect us in the months and years to come.”
RELATED VIDEO: 10 TV Moments That Mattered in the 2016 Election
“This is a democracy and our vote is what makes that work, it doesn’t work if we’re not voting. You have to show up or it doesn’t work,” he said.
Katie Hartsoe, 28, told PEOPLE she is casting her vote for all those who can’t — and for those whose rights have been suppressed throughout history.
“Especially for women and people who are not white males, so many people have fought very hard for us to have the right to vote and we should honor that by trying to make our voices heard and going out and voting,” she said.
She said she was troubled by the direction the election has gone — but hopes to vote for the first female president, Hillary Clinton. “It is very troubling to me the direction this election has gone in,” she said. “I am pretty invested and hoping that not just the presidential race but other races go in a not troubling way.”
There were about 40 people in line around 11:15 a.m. at Briar Vista Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia — a county that went blue for the last four presidential elections. But voters said the lines moved fast, with no one waiting more than 30 minutes.
Cheryl Jenkins, 63, told PEOPLE she was a longtime voter who had been as excited to start voting as she was to get her driver’s license. She declined to say who she was supporting, but said that decisions made today would affect people for future decades. She said that no matter who wins, she wants the country to “unite.”
“This is one of the most important times to vote,” said Jenkins, a grandmother of six — joking that even Nostradamus knew how important the 2016 election was. She urged people to get off their “rusty dusty.”
“What we do today is for our tomorrow,” she said.
Mary Timoney — a 50-year-old longtime voter — stayed with her party, voting for Trump, and said she was motivated by things like the Supreme Court. She had mixed enthusiasm about the candidates themselves, as did many people she knew, she said. She quoted her Irish husband: “Out of six billion people, this is all [we] got?”
“They both have positive qualities and negative qualities,” Timoney said of Clinton and Trump. “I have a 6-year-old that said, ‘They’re really mean to each other.’ ” She then joked that things would be different if 6-year-olds could vote.
She said that all the voters in line were in “a good mood,” and she remained enthusiastic about voting itself, if not her choices: “It’s very important.”
Bo Brown, 58, was there supporting Clinton. He said he’d been voting for “many years,” and turnout seemed “a bit longer than last time.” He said he was excited to vote.
“I very much believe that Hillary Clinton is a far superior candidate to Donald Trump,” he said. “She’s been in public service all her life” he added, citing her work as Arkansas and U.S. first lady, a U.S. senator and secretary of state.
“I just hope whoever loses concedes gracefully,” Brown said.
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NEW JERSEY
There were a steady stream of voters at Croydon Hall School in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. The Monmouth County district voted the Republican ticket in 2008 and 2012 — and residents who spoke to PEOPLE appeared to be following suit.
“I’ve been a resident of here for 61 years,” said Kenny, 61. “I voted for Trump, plain and simple. That’s it!”
Dan, 41, said he felt nervous when he saw an Obama/Biden bumper sticker in the parking lot — hoping that the country would not go with the Democratic choice again. He said that if it were up to him, he would want all politicians out of office “because they all stink.”
“There is no way anyone could rightfully vote for [Clinton],” he said. “She is without a doubt a liar — lies about everything there is. There isn’t a question about that. She’s horrible on national security. She’s horrible on the economy. She hasn’t done anything in her entire career — she’s been a politician. Is he great? He could not be any worse so let’s give it a change.”
New Jersey resident Deborah Murchie lives locally in Leonardo — and said she was worried about the outcome of the election. “I’m a little concerned about what is going to happen,” she said. “I hope that I cast the proper vote, but we all have to work together and no longer be a country divided.”
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
At a fire station in Linfield, Pennsylvania, there were long lines — and voters on both sides of the aisle.
Royersford resident Charlotte Coppens told PEOPLE she voted for Clinton because she had a special-needs child at home. “She supports Medicaid and everything like that, so that’s why,” the 28-year-old said.
Jeremy Weeks — a registered Independent who works as a communications technician — cast his vote for Donald Trump.
“I feel that of the candidates, he’s going to … better steer our country in the right direction,” the 46-year-old said. “He may not be the best candidate for president, but I like his choices for better.”
His wife, registered Republican Christine, agreed. The 45-year-old stay-at home mother of two, who homeschools their two kids, said she was looking at the big picture.
“Looking at Trump, I don’t really feel he represents me,” she explained. “But it’s those who were behind him on the Republican ticket and on the Supreme Court who are going to support our values and Biblical values of our right to carry; our right to religious freedoms — those things are important to us and our kids and possibly even our grandchildren. So that’s why we did what we did.”
Now that she voted, she said she felt “peace of mind.”
“I’ve been praying about it for a long time so I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I was going to be,” Christine Weeks said. “I went in, I prayed, ‘Alright Lord, it’s all yours’ ” and just did what I had to do. And I feel that even tomorrow when we wake up after all this, God’s still our King and He’s going to have there who He wants there and we’re just going to have to deal with it either way.”
One Pennsylvania voter, who asked PEOPLE to remain anonymous, said the election inspired her to vote for the first time in almost 30 years. “It’s two awful candidates and I’m trying to vote for the one who will do the least harm to the county,” she said. “It’s sad.”
So who did she vote for? “The one who scared me less,” she said — keeping her choice private.