MANKATO — Free Press staff writers fanned out in Mankato-North Mankato Tuesday to gauge the tenor of voters’ sentiments on the presidential race. Here’s what people said:
Kim Bergman and Karen Svenby left Holy Rosary Catholic Church in North Mankato within minutes of each other Tuesday afternoon after casting opposite votes for the president, but the same votes for Minnesota’s constitutional amendments.
“I voted for Romney because he was the lesser of two evils,” Bergman said.
Svenby said it was negative advertisements and name calling that turned her away from Romney.
“I think Obama is more honest,” she said.
Two young military veterans came to Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato, motivated exclusively by the presidential election.
“I just think he’s (Obama) done a good job of getting us out of war,” said Erik Elgin, 26, who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 but felt Bush lost focus on the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
“The Bush administration should have put a priority on killing Osama bin Laden. They didn’t do it in eight years. (Obama) did it in two.”
Jason Gross, 30, said the 9/11 terrorist attacks played a role in his decision to join the military. Obama’s success in targeting al-Qaeda and killing bin Laden, plus his efforts to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, were important to him.
“That kind of helps a lot of vets that were over there, knowing they were there for a purpose,” Gross said of al-Qaeda’s decline.
Tyler Johnson and Alicia Edstrom said human rights issues were at the heart of their decisions at the ballot box.
“The marriage amendment was something we obviously got out here for,” Edstrom said. “Minnesota Nice: Vote ‘No’ twice.”
Johnson said he’s not thrilled with everything Obama’s done in his first term.
“But I feel like there’s some progress being made, no matter how slow and no matter how blockaded by opposition in the Senate and the House,” said Johnson, who was also concerned about Romney’s positions on gay marriage and women’s rights.
And he said the Republican’s economic proposals reminded him too much of Bush’s.
“Why would you go back to the same economic policies that brought us from surplus to deficit,” he said. “It’s just not smart.”
Edstrom said women’s rights are crucial to her, and she believes Romney would attempt to ban abortion and end funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Someone much cooler than me said, ‘I’d rather have Obama do nothing for another four years in office than have Romney do anything at all.’”
Jeff Stevens, a military reservist, said he didn’t come to the South Bend Fire Hall for a specific candidate, but said the economy was the most important issue to him.
He said the president’s policies don’t seem to be working because unemployment remains high.
Jerimie Goettlicher said he was voting for the president.
“I think the last four years were good. I think the next four years can be better,” he said.
Jessica Ingbritson said she was voting for the first time, though she was old enough in 2008. She said the marriage amendment was the most important issue to her.
“I’m very adamant that you should be able to marry whoever you want to.”
At Minnesota State University, teenage students were wearing their “I Voted” stickers proudly, celebrating their very first Election Day.
And while some might assume young people lean toward the left, the name on most lips leaving the dorm early afternoon was Mitt Romney. The same words that got Obama elected four years ago were the ones students were using for wanting him out: hope and change.
Tony Freese, 19, and Emma Glasser, 18, said they hoped Romney could change the country for the better.
“Obama put us in a lot of debt,” said Glasser, who voted by absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago and planned to keep election results up on her computer all night.
“I just want a change,” Freese said.
The parking lot of the Blue Earth County Library was damp, the sky was gray and there was a definite chill in the air.
But none of that could stop a steady stream of eager voters from making their way to the polls.
One of those was Ronald Johnston, a middle-age man wearing a Florida Gators sweatshirt.
He declined to divulge his vote but offered some advice to people when it comes to casting a vote: “Vote your heart; I voted my beliefs.”
Lori Lindblom took a few minutes away from her job at Gold Cross Courier to go to the polls.
Unlike Johnston, she didn’t mind divulging her vote.
“I voted Democrat all the way.”
Bethany Lutheran College students Logan Hoppe and Jacob Schneider had divergent views on the presidential race.
Hoppe said he’d heard a figure recently that 40 percent of Americans won’t even vote on election day.
“That’s kind of ridiculous,” he said. “You’re literally picking a guy to run the entire country.”
Hoppe said he’s voting for Obama because he comes from a family of farmers and Obama is better for farmers.
Schneider, though, also comes from a farming family. But he characterizes his family’s work as a small business, and thus feels compelled to support Romney because of his business background.