Voters head to the polls with immigration, health care on their minds

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By Suzy Khimm

Americans headed to the polls Tuesday with health care, immigration, the economy, and President Donald Trump on their minds, having expressed record levels of enthusiasm for a midterm election.

Lines were long at many polling places as voters eagerly cast their ballots after months of listening to politicians’ back-and-forth.

“Washington is out of control,” said Bonnie Slade, a 45-year-old resident of Potomac, Maryland, who cited Trump as a reason for voting.

“He doesn’t stand for anything that I believe in, period,” said Slade, who is black. “I’m a minority. I’m a woman. And he’s just not the best choice for me, personally, or my family.”

Pamela Aguirre, a 77-year-old voter in El Paso, Texas, told MSNBC that she supported Rep. Beto O’Rourke for Senate because he “represents everything that Donald Trump isn’t.”

If O’Rourke wins against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, it means “we all still have a chance to have a decent country and decent values with decent relationships,” Aguirre said in tears, carrying her oxygen tank to the polls.

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Heading into the elections, a majority of voters said they saw the Congressional races as a referendum on Trump: 32 percent of likely voters said their vote would be a signal of support for the president, and 40 percent said it was a signal of opposition, according to an NBC/WSJ poll conducted last week.

Richard Murphy was among the Republican voters who cited the booming economy as a big reason to support the GOP.

“I want to keep things going,” said Murphy of Lakewood, California, who voted for Trump in 2016. “My work feels the booming economy. We’re hiring more people, all positions, from the bottom to the top.”

Throughout the country, Democratic voters said health care was a central issue driving their decisions, expressing concerns that Republicans will undermine the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid if they retain control of Congress.

“Decent health insurance should be a right. Everybody should have that. Right now, it’s endangered,” said Cordell Chaney, 30, who works at a manufacturing plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Chaney voted for a straight Democratic ticket, including Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is in one of the country’s tightest Senate races.

Fred Hoy of Reno, Nevada, also said that he was voting Democratic to protect health care.

“If we don’t have some kind of medical, we’re going to collapse as a nation,” said Hoy, 61, who has diabetes and is on Medicaid.

Both Republican and Democratic voters have expressed unusually high levels of enthusiasm, according to NBC/WSJ polling, with 70 percent of respondents saying they are highly interested in the midterm contest. A record number of Americans turned out for early voting in Texas and New Mexico.

Associated Press contributed.

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