It would be a stretch to call what follows a true “exit poll” – if it were, it would have a much broader sample size and a much more scientific approach.
Still, The New Tri-State Defender wanted to hear what some voters were thinking as they arrived and left the polls.
So we posted up at strategic times near two polling locations in Frayser. First, we went to Precinct 70-01 at Martin Luther King Preparatory, right around “quitting time” so we could catch the on-the-way-home voter.
From there, we checked in at Precinct 70-02 at the Ed Rice Community Center, arriving just 10 minutes before the polls closed, to try to talk to the very last people to cast a ballot.
Sure, we asked who they voted for. But we also wanted to know what issues were most pressing and when they started paying attention to the Democratic primaries. Was there a candidate they liked who dropped out?
Charlie Hardy, 61 (MLK Prep., 70-01) — 4:27 p.m.
Like several of the voters we talked to, Charlie Hardy’s mind had been made up for a long time.
“I’m gonna vote for Joe Biden,” Hardy said on his way into the polls. “I’ve been with him pretty much most of the time, mainly because Barack Obama is backing him and he served under Barack Obama. So he pretty much would be the best man, from my opinion.”
Tennessee overwhelmingly agreed. Biden won nearly 42 percent of the Tennessee vote; more than 50,000 votes in Shelby County alone — more than rivals Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren combined.
Hardy admitted he doesn’t follow politics closely, but he takes his responsibility to vote seriously.
“I do understand it’s important to vote, mainly because of the struggle that we had to get this right,” he said. “So I feel like this is my best opportunity to get out and cast my vote. That way, I won’t have nothing to argue or gripe about.”
Unirikka and Arnetra Young, (MLK Prep., 70-01) — 4:37 p.m.
Arnetra Young had her mind on her money as she went into the polls – specifically her student loan debt. As an educator, she has returned to school to pursue a master’s degree, which is great for her career but not her bank account.
“Like, I’m in debt, now. I’m even in more debt than I was before, when I was in undergrad,” she said, as Unirikka echoed his own student debt. And now I’m about to have a master’s and I’m like $60,000 in debt. So, that was important to me.”
Both declined to say who they voted for, but did say their choice had been made for a long time, and did not have to switch after a candidate dropped out. “I already knew from the jump,” Unirikka said.
“I was kind of indecisive between two Democrats,” Arnetra Young added. “But when it boiled down to it, I made up my mind.”
Rejoice Jones, 59 (MLK Prep., 70-01) — 4:41 p.m.
While Biden’s affiliation with American’s first African-American president helped him at hte polls, Rejoice Jones was unimpressed with him, or anyone who tried to name-check Obama at every turn.
“Don’t mention Obama to me,” she said. “That’s not attractive to me. You got Elizabeth Warren saying, ‘Obama chose me for this!’ Well, I don’t care, that was back then. Then you got Joe Biden, and he was vice president and that’s good enough. But he’s got to pull his own weight.”
She said she voted for Bloomberg.
“He ain’t using nobody but what he’s done for other people,” she said. “He showing us what he did for New York, I want him to do it for the whole world.”
Yolanda Webster, (MLK Prep., 70-01) — 4:45 p.m.
Yolanda Webster knew going in she would vote for Biden. But coming out, she had concerns about whether her vote would be counted. She said that at first, her voting booth credited her vote to another candidate, despite her vote for Biden. She got it corrected.
“It made me kind of iffy about he situation,” said Webster, who said she’s in her 40s. “I usually vote early, and this was kind of discouraging, so I’ll probably go back to voting early.”
But with talk of voter suppression, machine hacking and foreign influence, did her experience sour her on voting?
“No, I’m gonna always vote because we got that privilege to vote. Our people fought a long time for us to vote, so of course I’m going to vote,” she said. “But yeah I can see how something like that may discourage some folks because they’re thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter anyway because you’re gonna choose who you want to win.’ But your vote might count.
“My vote does count.”
Torrie Flagg, 43, (Ed Rice Cen- ter, 70-02) — 6:54 p.m.
Some voters prefer short lines at the polls – they’re convenient, quick. But Torrie Flagg really was hoping she’d have to wait to cast her ballot.
“I’m just disappointed. I’m really disappointed,” said Flagg, 43, as she stood in a nearly empty parking lot.
“I thought I was gonna pull up and I was going to be standing in a line and having a wait to cast my vote.”
Instead, and much to her cha- grin, Flagg was able to waltz in and cast her ballot. Given the stakes of the election, no line meant people weren’t turning out.
“Just to be able to walk in and walk back out,” she said. “It’s kinda sad, for it to be Super Tuesday.”
Catherine Monplaisir, 22 (Ed Rice Center, 70-02) — 6:57 p.m.
Right after Catherine Monplaisir walked out of Ed Rice, poll workers started taking down voting signs. The poll had closed, and Monplaisir’s was the last ballot cast there.
The young mother wouldn’t share her choice, but her criteria was pretty straightforward, simple and common.
“Help out schools,” said Monplaisir, an Afro-Latina of Caribbean and Honduran descent. “I have a little girl right now – she’s 2 – and if anyone can help out schools . . . healthcare is expensive. I have to work, everyone has to work to get through the day.
“I’m, like, thinking about who really could be a good president, you know?” she added. “I need to see a candidate that will help both (blacks and Latinos) and even whites, you know? It doesn’t really matter what race you are.”