There is hope mixed with cynicism and anger vying with optimism as Americans cast ballots across the country.
Seventy-one-year-old Jim Brinley gave voice to the discontent of many Americans from a polling place in Louisville, Kentucky — fittingly casting his ballot at Our Mother of Sorrows church.
“I’d like for us to get back to government as it should be — small, listen to the people, let the people decide, let the states decide,” said Brimley, who favored Republican candidates.
Michael Laughlin, a self-described radical moderate, had his say from a polling place in Denver, where the psychotherapist held out hope that Democrats would be able to keep control of the Senate but fretted about whether ordinary people are being heard anymore.
“My biggest hope is that we don’t do more damage than we’ve already done,” Laughlin said. “A Republican Senate could turn back the hands of time in a number of different areas,” including civil rights and the economy.
Overall, Laughlin said, “our country has gotten caught up in a system where the majority is counted not in people but in dollars.”
Construction worker Rebecca Cziryak was out at dawn Tuesday in New Jersey. She voted the Republican line and predicted that could mean more job sites in her future.
“Believe it or not, when the Republicans are in full force, I work more,” said Cziryak, who voted at a community college in Gloucester Township, near Camden.
Also in line to vote there: Democrat Mark Madden, who said adding more Republicans to the mix would only add to the gridlock in Washington.
“If the Republicans are put in there, you might as well tell the president, ‘just go home,’ ” said Madden.
Up the Atlantic seaboard, the divisions were much the same in Manchester, New Hampshire.
There, Sandra Philbrook was hoping a GOP takeover of the Senate would improve the economic outlook.
“You ever see more people losing their jobs? Losing their homes?” she asked. “That’s important. I think we need a change. Hopefully it will be in the right direction.”
Right ahead of her in line, Roger Bleau said he voted to re-elect Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and added that he liked the Democratic president’s efforts to keep millions of U.S. troops from getting mired in foreign hot spots in Iraq and Syria and more.
In Kansas, plumber Mark Brogan thought more Republicans in Congress might mean less gridlock.
“Maybe if we go the other way, maybe we can get a little bit of agreement,” said Brogan.
Those turning out to vote on Tuesday weren’t the only ones having their say this election. More than 18 million Americans in 32 states voted early — either by mail or at early polling places. And millions more had their say in another way — by sitting this election out.
In Florida, equipment glitches at a polling place in Pensacola caused some would-be voters to bail out before casting ballots.
“I had a 7:45 meeting so I couldn’t wait any longer,” said Mark Hobbly, who had planned to vote for Democrat Charlie Crist for governor.
Even among those who voted, though, there was skepticism about how much the elections would change things.
In Louisville, voter Keisha Matlock complained about the “constant griping back and forth about who’s right. And, who’s going to do this. And, who’s going to do that in office. Sometimes, they say these things and they never do it when they get in there.”
In closely-watched Louisiana, Republican Juan Parke expressed dismay with the campaign of Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who’s trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in a contest that could tip the balance in the Senate.
Parke, 51, said he crossed party lines to cast his ballot for Democrat Landrieu, saying Cassidy “hasn’t shown me anything. His ads are just shouting at the president.”
Cab driver Dennis Antill, an Independent at a polling booth in Jefferson Parish, said Landrieu didn’t get his vote this time.
“Change. I’m looking for more accountability,” Antill, 55, said after casting a vote for tea party-backed Rob Maness.
Antill spoke to the disillusion felt by many nationwide about the direction the county is taking.
“I’m a cab driver and you’d be surprised at all the races of people who get in and say they are fed up,” he said. “This country is in trouble.”
AP’s Jennifer C. Kerr in Washington, Sean Carlin in New Jersey, Rick Gentilo in New Hampshire, Alex Sanz in Kentucky, Sadie Gurman in Colorado, Cain Burdeau in Louisiana, Melissa Nelson in Florida and John Hanna in Kansas contributed to this report.
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