For much of the year, national media coverage of the midterm campaigns focused on Americans’ anger over recent government actions and the struggling economy. But did that anger also apply to voters in Grand Forks, who live in a state with the country’s strongest economy and lowest unemployment rate? That was the big question I wanted to find out. So, I spent a few hours on Tuesday driving around to several polling sites around Grand Forks to talk with people who had just cast their ballots to see what their mood was on Election Day.
Here’s the story I wrote – you can also find it on the Herald’s website or in Wednesday’s Grand Forks Herald:
American voters might have been angry, but several Grand Forks voters said words like â€œdisappointed,â€ â€œfrustratedâ€ and â€œannoyedâ€ more appropriately described their mood on Election Day as they headed into the voting booths.
Dean DePountis said thereâ€™s always going to be a percentage of Americans who are â€œunhappy with the way things are,â€ but said the national focus on that anger this year is an attempt to â€œplay that up.â€
â€œItâ€™s always drama,â€ he said. â€œIn the grand scheme of things, I donâ€™t sense anything worse this election year.â€
Travis Burke said the national talk of anger among voters is â€œoverhyped.â€
â€œI think what most people are probably angry about is that I donâ€™t think anybody would get anything done in there,â€ he said.
People might not be angry, he said, but theyâ€™re not happy about politiciansâ€™ focus on whatâ€™s best for their party rather than what is needed for the country.
â€œItâ€™s frustrating,â€ he said. â€œBut even though weâ€™re all frustrated, I think youâ€™ve got to do your part and at least be part of the process.â€
Bill Gerlach said voting this year was pretty much the same experience as other recent elections. He said heâ€™s only noticed anger as an issue in some of the negative campaign ads that became common on North Dakotaâ€™s television stations throughout the campaign.
â€œIt just sort of seems to be the tenor that thereâ€™s more pointing out what the other guy does wrong than what the one guy does right,â€ Gerlach said. â€œThat sometimes makes it very hard then to vote for someone instead of against somebody else.â€
Merri Plutowski said she votes every year. Itâ€™s her way of doing her duty as an American citizen.
â€œI feel like if I donâ€™t vote, I canâ€™t complain,â€ she said.
But Plutowski said she thinks many North Dakota voters were more excited for the campaign to end than to weigh in on the state and local candidates.
â€œI think people are really annoyed with all the negative campaigning and are just ready to be done with it,â€ she said.
Carissa Wirtz, a 22-year-old UND student, participated in her first election in 2008. She said there seemed to be a lot more energy and excitement among voters in 2008 than there was this year.
â€œPeople are probably more frustrated than angry this year because I think a lot of people are just fed up with lying and greed and stuff like that,â€ she said.
Mark VanderPloeg voted today but said heâ€™s â€œmore disappointedâ€ in politicians this year than in past elections and he isnâ€™t happy with the federal governmentâ€™s recent actions.
He said he wanted to make sure he voted, even if he didnâ€™t think it would do much.
â€œItâ€™s important that we exercise that right,â€ VanderPloeg said. â€œI donâ€™t necessarily vote because I think my vote is going to be significant and do a lot.â€
JoAnne Gorman, a Grand Forks resident who regularly votes, said this election seemed more important than other recent elections.
â€œWith the state of the economy, I felt like my vote probably counted even more so,â€ she said. â€œI always feel like it has, but it seems like more of an urgency.â€
Gorman said voters this year seemed to be â€œangryâ€ about the current state of the country and the actions of politicians in recent years.
â€œThe majority of people Iâ€™ve talked to and myself feel like weâ€™re not being heard as average American citizens,â€ she said. â€œI think we really want to see a change where what we say counts.â€