Tarrant voters ready to put election uncertainty, divisiveness in the past

It’s over.

Really. Even though it felt as though it might never end, this year’s fiercely extreme presidential election — which dominated the news, social media and every day conversations for months — is truly over.

Despite the intensity of this year’s election, some local voters said they felt empowered, hopeful, even relieved, after casting their ballots.

“It felt really good to get that done and over with,” said Susan Taylor Eurto, a 60-year-old Fort Worth early voter. “I think it is clear this election has been completely unlike any election in modern times.

“We’ve complained about all the other elections; they’ve all had their share of mudslinging and negativity, but never to this extreme,” she said. “And the whole lot of us is to blame.”

This year’s election had just about everything in it — concerns of Russians hacking U.S. election systems, an old video where a presidential candidate talked about groping women, emails from another presidential candidate that were twice reviewed by the FBI, even allegations that the election itself is “rigged.”

American voters tuned in like never before to three debates; phrases such as “bad hombre” and “nasty woman” quickly became social media catch phrases; and the highlight for some political fans was watching Saturday Night Live to see how each candidate was portrayed.

In a year in which Donald Trump said he believes Hillary Clinton belongs in jail and Hillary Clinton charged that Trump won’t release his tax returns because they’ll show how he avoided paying millions of dollars in tax revenue, everyone had an opinion.

As the election wove itself into so many facets of people’s lives, so did election stress.

Newspaper headlines blared the latest update; TV and radio news trumpeted continuing developments. An overload of political stories posted on Facebook prompted “friends” to defriend others and call for a cease-fire on political posts.

Locally, charges of voter fraud were quickly met with voter intimidation counter charges.

And even on Election Day, oddities continued locally — from a Grand Prairie polling site opening two hours late after the election judge died at his home to hundreds of voters heading to Keller Town Hall only to find out it wasn’t an Election Day location.

Not only that, but some local voters had a harder time casting ballots than others, such as those at Van Zandt Elementary School who had to cross through a construction zone to vote. Eventually, temporary lighting was installed to make the 160 steps on the pathway between the polling place set up in the school gym and the parking lot more secure.

But take a deep breath.

It’s over now.

“It’s been terrible, it’s been horrible, the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Adam Powell, 56, who voted with his wife, Sue, at John Peter Smith Health Center/Viola M. Pitts Tuesday. “The bad-mouthing at each other, throwing darts at one another.

“Whichever way it goes, it’s in the hands of God now.”

Still anxious

Lines of voters began forming early Tuesday morning before some polling sites even opened at 7 a.m.

Allison Donahue, 31, was among those at the Northpark YMCA in north Fort Worth.

“I’m nervous,” Donahue said. “Both candidates have had negative connotations with them but I know there has to be a selection so really I’m just anxious about the next four years.”

Brigett Callihan, a Colleyville woman who cast her ballot Tuesday, said she believes social media contributed to the nastiness.

“Social media has made it easier to be argumentative than face-to-face,” the 37-year-old said. “There’s more ugliness in campaigns now than before.”

Another Colleyville voter, David Medlin, was among those who found themselves voting against a candidate, instead of for one.

“Had to hold my nose while I did it,” he said after casting his ballot.

And he said he fears that there will be “major problems” over the next four years.

“I think the political divide is going to continue,” the 57-year-old said. “The country is divided — we are deeply divided — it will not heal by this election, unfortunately.”

‘Very strange’

It’s no wonder people have been stressed and anxious over this year’s election, said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“The Republican Party nominated the most disliked and polarizing major party presidential candidate in the last 50 years and the Democratic Party nominated the second most disliked and polarizing candidate,” he said.

“The result, combined with a nonstop 24-hour news cycle that thrives on controversy, is the toxic witches’ brew that has been the 2016 presidential race.”

But people still voted in record numbers, even if they didn’t feel good about it.

“At first I didn’t want to vote,” said Kriston Royal, a 20-year-old new mother and first time voter in Fort Worth. “But the last few months, I’ve been really worried about my son and how I will protect him. Our future is really in danger and I realized my vote really does matter.”

Needed or not, Fort Worth early voter Anjanette Smith said she didn’t feel happy or relieved after voting early.

“I felt the need to be cleansed after,” she said. “Shaking my head as if I did something wrong. It was very strange.”

‘Bring us together’

But for some, voting in this year’s election was something they wanted to do.

Olivia Byrd made sure that she went to the polls on the first day of early voting. And there was one thing the 87-year-old didn’t bring: her cane.

“My leg was bad,” she said after an early voting rally Oct. 24 at the Griffin Subcourthouse in Fort Worth. “But I put that stick down and I walked into that building to vote without it.

“I wanted to show my support.”

Crystal Mayoyo, 37, couldn’t help but smile after voting at the Bradley Center in Fort Worth Tuesday.

“I feel good, no, great,” she said. “I was anxious but I just wanted to get my voice heard.”

And for Vallete Harris, 53, voting on Election Day was simply exciting.

“I was looking forward to today and now I’m relieved that I have it under my belt,” she said. “I feel like I participated in a major, historical event going on.

“I hope that whoever wins can bring us together.”

Moving on

Now that the election is over, some say the stress should soon subside.

“I would say I’m relieved more than anything else,” Jonathan Mendoza, a 30-year-old Fort Worth voter said after casting his ballot. “I’m just glad after [Tuesday night] we can stop hearing about it.”

Now that the votes have been cast, voters across the country likely will move on to different issues.

“It has been a contentious election, but so have others,” said Matt Esbaugh-Soha, a political science professor at the University of North Texas in Denton. “We [will] all get over this.

“And one good thing about a lack of political interest in American politics is that once the election is over, most Americans go back to avoiding the news altogether.”

Staff writers Azia Branson, Jeff Caplan, Mitch Mitchell, Ryan Osborne, Diane Smith and Mark Smith contributed to this report.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley