Doña Ana County voters explain motivations for casting a ballot

LAS CRUCES - Doña Ana County residents Martha Heimzer and Roy Williams voted within minutes of each other at Fairacres Elementary School on Tuesday.

They each expressed similar reasons for casting a ballot.

Heimzer, from Picacho Hills, said her vote honors the Suffrage movement, which secured women's rights to vote in the early 20th century.

Williams, also from the west side of town, said people died to guarantee the right to vote in America and there's no better way to honor those who sacrificed their life than to head to the polls on Election Day.

Though legacy was a big part of what brought Heimzer and Williams to the polls, but they might not have much else in common.

More:Election 2020: Live updates from polling locations, races and ballot measures in Doña Ana County

Heimzer said she was voting to defeat President Donald Trump "because I think he's taking the country in the wrong way."

Williams, a Trump supporter in 2016, said he doesn't like what he claims is a trend toward "socialism/Communism" in 2020.

"We've got freedom and I want to keep that freedom," he said.

The presidential race between Trump, the Republican incumbent and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger, was the race voters at Doña Ana County polling sites wanted to talk about.

Hatch voters

Renee Stratton, 38, is originally from Nevada but has lived in Hatch for three years.

In the past, she said she did not pay much attention to politics and elections — she was confused about how government worked, especially in high school. Now, she has a son who will be turning 18 soon, and she wants to set a good example for him.

“I’m really trying to fulfill my civic duty and make my vote count, even if, you know, other people vote oppositely of me,” Stratton said.

She said she is a teacher in Truth or Consequences and has been busy with her work, so she did not vote early.

Stratton said she voted for Donald Trump on Tuesday, as well as in the 2016 presidential election. She said she felt that the Trump Administration has done a good job in the past four years, based on statistics she has seen.

“I’m not saying he’s a great person and all that, but he’s doing the job that he is supposed to do in office,” Stratton said.

Sandra Ostos and her daughter, Iliyah, cast a vote in Hatch on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Iliyah, a fourth-grader, says she is very interested in politics and her mother said she helped with the ballot.

Sandra Ostos of Hatch cast her ballot Tuesday and was assisted by her fourth-grade daughter.

Ostos said the issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic motivated her to vote this election, especially how schools and children have been affected. She has a young daughter, Iliyah, who is in the fourth grade.

Iliyah said she is excited about politics and was helping her mother fill out her ballot Tuesday. “She’s like, ‘why can’t I vote. I want to vote,’” Ostos said of her daughter.

Las Cruces voters

John Pittsenbargar, 71, and wife Irene Pittsenbargar, 63, voted at Sierra Middle School, along with son Ross Pittsenbargar, 35.

John is conservative. He supported Trump in 2016 and is doing the same in 2020. Irene's views have changed in the past four years. She said climate change and the environment are a crisis that require "new blood." Ross doesn't like either candidate. He said he's just waiting to see who will run the "freak show" next.

Charlie Kessler, 37, was among the first voters in line at Oñate High School when the polling site opened at 7 a.m. He says he's not a fan of the two-party system, though he would vote for a Democrat or Republican if he liked the candidate. In 2016, he voted third-party and he plans to do the same this year.

More:Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small visits Mayfield High School on Election Day

Lorena Sanchez, 56, who voted at Oñate and lives near the school, said concerns about the economy were motivating her vote. She still has a job, though her children lost theirs during the pandemic and now she's financially supporting her children. She said her opinion on which party will get her support has changed since 2016, but would not elaborate.

Bernie Flores, 71, who also lives near the school, said he's voted in every election since he turned 18. Some of his motivating factors are a belief that "all lives matter" and people need to work instead of relying on handouts.

Marsha Sanchez, 43, waits in line to vote. She believes everyone should do their own research on candidates. Sanchez decided to vote for President Donald Trump after finding out candidate Joe Biden's stance on abortion, which she is firmly against.

Marsha Sanchez, 43, who lives in the Sonoma area, cast a ballot for Trump at Sonoma Elementary. She said she considered voting for Biden, but because she is firmly against his stance on abortion, decided against it.

Camille Allen, 26, is a nurse and said she's seen firsthand the effects of COVID-19. She believes the federal administration has mishandled the pandemic. "Trump sucks," she said. Spencer Allen, 26, came with his wife Camille to vote at Sonoma Elementary, though he'd already cast a ballot. The couple said they were already against Trump before the pandemic.

Roset Samuel, 70, is a migrant from India. She said she's never seen riots like the ones this summer in the United States anywhere else in the world, "even in third world countries." She voted to restore law and order and believes the pandemic has been handled appropriately, she said outside of Sonoma Elementary.

Jonathan Ventura, 32, has been a Republican his whole life but decided to vote for Joe Biden this election because he doesn't agree with President Donald Trump's policies.

Jonathan Ventura, 32, said he's been a Republican his entire life but is voting for Biden in 2020. He said he'll likely return to voting Republican again but does not agree with Trump's policies and is not a fan of "what's going on in the country right now."

Joel Osborne, 65, who lives on the East Mesa, said Trump did what he promised to do in 2016 and he'll be will voting for him again. Osborne's motivating factors are the economy, jobs, taxes and gun rights.

Ventura and Osborne were also voting at Sonoma Elementary.

North county voters

Jean Apodaca, a resident of Garfield who voted at the town's elementary school, said she voted Tuesday because she was not able to vote in the last election, and felt she need to this year. “I think the one (president) we have now is bad,” Apodaca said. “I think we need a new leader.”

John Scheuch of Doña Ana, said he was motivated to vote this election to change who fills the role of president. Scheuch said he is a regular voter but chose not to vote in 2016 because he did not like either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Tuesday, he cast his ballot at the Doña Ana Community Center for Biden.

“I figured I’d come out today and I wanted to make sure it (his vote) was counted,” Scheuch said. “I’ve heard all kinds of things about the mail and this and that, so I figured it’d be best to come in person and do it.”

South county voters

Alma Ceniceros, 38, resident of Sunland Park, said she felt people were looking for a change. “I think it will be a good turnout with voting and especially with everything that’s been going on like the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter movement and the racism towards Hispanics,” Ceniceros said. 

Janet Shaw drove straight to the voting site in Santa Teresa Middle School to cast her vote after a six-hour work shift as a phlebotomist at a hospital in El Paso. She said her main motivation to vote was to get Trump out of the office. “I guess I want things to be better and to have a better leader,” she said. 

Polls open at the Doña Ana County Government Center in Las Cruces on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Ivette Hernandez, a 25-year-old mother showed up to the voting cite in Desert View Elementary School in Sunland Park with her 4-month-old daughter and cited immigration issues as a main interest when thinking about casting her vote. “I have a friend that is a U.S. citizen and she’s been on the waitlist for her parents to come for two three years,” Hernandez said. “I mean it should be easier for people who are doing it the legal way.” 

Richard Medina, 39, cast his ballot at the voting site in Santa Teresa Middle School. He said he was mainly concerned about picking candidates that shared his beliefs like protecting the border and protecting free speech rights. “I think the economy is one of the main one for me and thinking how politicians will continue to manage the (COVID-19) situation,” Medina said. 

Reporters Bethany Freudenthal, Miranda Cyr, Veronica Martinez and Leah Romero contributed to this story.