CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cuyahoga County voters came out in large numbers with very different opinions but shared strong feelings that a lot was at stake on Election Day Tuesday.
The health of the economy, abortion rights and claims of voter fraud and misinformation were some of the key issues voters cited as they exited the polls.
Abortion appeared to be the main topic of the morning’s voters — especially women — passing through the polls at La Sagrada Familia church near Gordon Square in Detroit-Shoreway, an area known for progressive politics.
Nicole Coury, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work, believes the Ohio Legislature will renew efforts to ban abortions after six weeks unless a permanent law, now the subject of a lawsuit affecting the most vulnerable female populations, is passed.
“We could see someone as young as 10 who could be forced into labor and that could damage their body. That’s my worst fear,” said Coury, who cited LGBTQ rights and trans people’s ability to access health care as other top concerns that brought her to the polls.
Reproductive and LGBTQ rights are also top concerns for Kelly M., 46, who, like some of the other respondents, asked that the full name must not be used. She said her profession as a high school history teacher helps shape her perspective.
Overturning Roe “is not so much about abortion as it is about the culmination of decades of women’s struggle for recognition and status,” said Kelly, who entered the election with a League of Women Voters guide. “We’re going back now.” History is going in the wrong direction.”
It wasn’t just women who cited abortion as a major motivation for casting their vote for Democrats. For Camilo Villa, a 34-year-old union organizer, reproductive rights go hand in hand with the labor movement.
“If we want to build labor power and lift up workers, we need to elect candidates who will keep abortion legal,” he said.
Richard, the Strongsville teacher, who described himself as predominantly liberal, said it didn’t feel right to make a difficult choice for someone else. “It’s not my job to tell you what to do with your body,” he said. “When they say state’s rights, I think even better; what about individual rights?”
In Bay Village, Democrat Wendy Wheeler spoke in support of women and girls.
“I am here to support democracy and use my voice. I’m here for the future of the young girls on our street.” Wheeler said.
In Lakewood, Olivia Rosborough said she thinks the judicial race on the Common Pleas Court is one of the most important when it comes to abortion.
“With our judges, they’re the ones who are going to see a lot of abortion cases right now.” So it affects me directly. It directly affects my friends. It affects women everywhere. It affects men everywhere, everyone. And at the local level, it’s important to make sure we’re electing people who share our views.”
In Lee-Miles, Tierrha M., 40, a community health social worker who asked that her last name not be used, left the voting booths at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Center feeling anxious. She said that her profession allows her to shine a light on this issue.
“If you were raped by your uncle and you’re 13, you don’t want his child,” she said. “I like Mike DeWine, but it’s time for him to go.
Although the majority of voters who listed abortion as an important issue said they would vote to protect a woman’s right to choose, this was not the case for all. The problem also brought conservative voters to the polls.
“I am here to vote for the unborn. That would probably be my #1 problem,” said one anonymous woman in Bay Village.
Inflation and the economy have been extremely important to voters in both parties, in some cases even changing the way some people vote.
Ashley Pandoli, a 32-year-old bar manager, tends to vote Democratic, but this year she voted a mix of Democrats and Republicans because of the current cost of living.
“Inflation is crazy and we don’t have to pay more taxes than we should,” she said, citing higher prices for day care, groceries, car insurance and even T-shirts. “Democrats are not always about saving people money. I feel like we’re losing money.”
The economy was also a top issue for Sidney Rose, 49, a Home Depot employee who also voted for a mix of Democrats and Republicans, including incumbents DeWine for governor and Shontel Brown for Congress.
He hopes Republicans can cut spending. “I go to Walmart and everything has doubled, from cereal to cookies to paper towels,” he said.
But other voters suggested the Biden administration is being unfairly blamed for the country’s financial woes.
“The economy does what it does — it goes up and down,” said David Myers, 63, a retired electrician and union worker, arguing that the system is working well as measured by spending. “There is a high demand for cars and housing. … You look at the news and you think we’re in a recession, but we’re not.”
June, a retiree from Bay Village, also felt that the country’s economic problems were being exaggerated. “Things are very good indeed, and once in a while we have to go through a recession. Republicans blow the economy.”
Across town, several voters at Detroit-Shoreway’s La Sagrada Familia church echoed the idea that no leader is in charge of the economy.
“China is closed, Ukraine is at war, and there’s not much you can do,” reasoned Arthur Henke, a 32-year-old marketing professional.
“People say it’s up to Biden and people get in the way, but it’s more complicated than that,” said Aaron Muttillo, a 45-year-old psychologist who was voted in to try to keep Republican Senate candidate JD Vance out of office. “It takes more than two years to turn the ship around and there are definitely global issues at play.”
For other voters, it was not a single issue that drove them to the polls, but a question of supporting the ideals of one party or the other.
“Our democracy is under threat under the leadership of Joe Biden and the Democrats. I think it’s important that we elect people who respect our constitutional rights,” said Mary Alice Frank of Bay Village.
“I believe in the right to life. I think the economy is a huge problem. I think the Democrats are taking away our rights every day – freedom of speech, freedom of religion – you saw that with the blockade you couldn’t even go to church!” Frank said, although the blockades in Ohio were issued by Republican Gov. DeWine.
The young Bay Village mother of three young children added, “I think we need a few more Republicans to sort things out because I feel like our world is falling apart.”
Democratic voters, on the other hand, have expressed concern that lies and misinformation spread by Republicans are damaging the democratic process.
“I want to end the chaos caused by election deniers and liars. People should be able to vote freely. They should vote according to their conscience,” said John Brzytwa, a retired lawyer and veteran. “All Republican efforts to prevent people from voting are un-American and obnoxious.”
For many voters, Donald Trump was so front and center that you’d think his name was on the ballot. “I voted because I don’t want Trump back in office,” said one Lee-Miles resident.
“I’m more worried about Trump and the people who follow him,” said Mike Zelenkofske, a 33-year-old real estate developer who is independent but voted Democrat in his Detroit-Shoreway poll on Tuesday. “I’m concerned about electoral integrity and people saying he won an election he didn’t.”
“I think it’s going to be very close and one side is not going to accept the results,” said Joseph Chubb, a 58-year-old IT business owner and Detroit-Shoreway resident. “My biggest fear is a repeat of January 6, but on a smaller scale in individual states.”
cleveland.com reporters Courtney Astolfi and Megan Sims contributed to this story.