America votes

“I’m out here because the flag is bigger than politics,” says Curt Cook, waving the flag outside Denver. “I do it for the Democrats. I do it for the Republicans.” The flag represents Americans of “all different races, types, shapes, forms and everything.” Voting does, too: “It’s the most patriotic thing you can do.” On the eve of the midterm elections, we went to nine states to ask people if they are voting and why.

Cover photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post

Michelle Weston

Newport Beach, Calif.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

“I’m not going to vote. I get this feeling there is no solid option. There is negativity on both sides. All I am doing is participating in the popularity contest, not really voting on issues,” says Weston, 27, who is married and runs her own automotive brokership. “I voted for the president in 2016. I always vote on the Republican side; it was important for me to do that one thing.”

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Terry Abbott

Smithers, W. Va.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

“I’ve been a coal miner for 48 years. Worked up and down that ladder. Especially important this year to vote. I am not a fan of Donald Trump at all. He may be our president, but he is not my leader. I don’t follow him. He’s a disaster. I don’t understand how women can vote for him in the way he treats other women.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Christina Danz, with daughter, Amelia

Gainesville, Ga.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

“I had a baby. And everything kinda changed for me. I need to make a difference. And my vote counts. And I want it to count for her,” says Danz, 22, a college student majoring in chemistry. “I’ll be her voice until she is old enough to vote. I didn’t vote in the last election. And now I am paying for it. And Amelia sitting right here is the importance of voting.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Flint, Mich.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Megan Hatfield

Hamlin, W. Va.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

“It is always important to do your civic duty and vote, but it is even more important than ever,” says the high school math teacher. “The last ballot didn’t have candidates that supported teachers and service personnel. We need lawmakers that will work toward fixing our insurance and our salaries … Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. Choose a candidate that supports your views. I am looking for a candidate that is pro education and will protect my rights as woman.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Kelly Pasch

Nashville, Tenn.

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

“I’m registered, but honestly haven’t kept up.”

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

Greg Mitchell

Nashville, Tenn.

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

“I’m older than I look, and I feel voting is a duty,” says Mitchell, who voted early. “I’ve always said if you don’t vote you’ve got nothing to complain about.”

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

Nashville, Tenn.

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

Carmen Gorgas

Denver, Colo.

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post

“Our votes are our voices. And I just love this country, and I want what is best for it,” says Gorgas, who immigrated at 22 and retired as a financial administrator for the federal government. She’s 79. “And every vote counts. Whoever thinks that ’well, it won’t make a difference if I don’t vote,’ no. It will make a difference. And I like to make a good difference.”

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post

Carlos Diaz

Orlando, Fla.

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

“I’m voting to make sure that my existence won’t be erased, that my voice has value,” says Diaz, 32, who’s from Puerto Rico. “I’m way more than just being gay - I’m Latino, I’m queer, I’m here and those things make me special. And to make sure that my people are protected in the future.”

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

Aisha Yaqoob

Duluth, Ga.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

“Advocating for immigrants has made me understand how impactful it is when you have people in government, in power, who look like the communities they are making the decisions about,” says Yaqoob, 25, who is running for a state house seat in Georgia. She got involved first in outreach “because I realized my Muslim community had no idea what was happening … they had no interest in voting.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Kyle Gomez-Leineweber

Gainesville, Ga.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

“I didn’t feel the sense of urgency in 2016 like I do now. It isn’t just filling in a bubble on a ballot sheet. It means something to vote,” says Gomez-Leineweber, 21, president of College Democrats at Brenau University. “My father and family are Mexican immigrants, and it is heartbreaking to think how many kids could lose their parents. Also to bring a sense of dignity back. We don’t know how to treat people anymore.”

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Montgomery, W. Va

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Natasha Harper-Madison

Austin, Tex.

Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post

“I will absolutely be voting, because it is my right, and I believe in exercising my right,” says Harper-Madison, 41, a city council candidate. “Equity is the most important thing in my mind’s eye, but affordability is the umbrella under which equity exists. … Something I love to point out is Austin is an old enough city to have made a ton of mistakes, but a young enough city to get it right.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post

Ron Thornton

Newberry, Fla.

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

“I wasn’t a Trump supporter at the beginning, he bothered me with his mouth. We just didn’t want Hillary,” says the retired University of Florida faculty member, son of a sharecropper and fiscal and social conservative. He’s 79. “The contrast between Gillum and DeSantis is massive – we’re on pins and needles. Working in politics is a real challenge. It’s really difficult to honor all those tenets of the Bible.”

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

Tamecka Pierce

Orlando, Fla.

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

“I think it’s very important for the felons’ rights campaign to push through. It’s 2018 and to have 1.4 million [unable to vote] is absurd,” says Pierce, 44, who says police misconduct led to her 1999 arrest. She became an activist after getting out of jail in 2001. “You have black and browns and poor whites that are being disenfranchised, and that’s just not fair and they’re doing it on purpose so that they can get the votes.”

Charlotte Kesl for The Washington Post

Playas de Tijuana, Mexico

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Les Anderson

Welch, Minn.

Ackerman + Gruber for The Washington Post

“I think it is pretty critical [to vote] because of the direction of the country,” says Anderson, a farmer. “I am a Trump supporter and I am worried about immigration and the sanctuary state situation.”

Ackerman + Gruber for The Washington Post

Joseph Raymond Gonzalez Roa

Los Angeles, Calif.

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

“I’ve never voted before; I’m very excited. I’ve always had this flame inside me to take part on the improvement of my community.” Roa, 18, got caught up in gangs, put in a year probation and attends a charter school. He has been phone-banking to get out the vote. “I’ve always had this flame inside of me to take part on the improvement of my community, the world as a whole. I’m really into that: justice overall.”

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Dawn Perkins and Mike Bannister

Nashville, Tenn.

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post

“I have a lot of issues with politics right now. There’s so much backstabbing. It feels like [voting] doesn’t matter at all,” says Bannister. Neither he nor Perkins is going to vote. “I don’t vote because the electoral system needs some overhaul.” His own vote “doesn’t carry much weight.”

Brandon Dill for The Washington Post