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Cynthia Steinnett brought her grandson with her to Castille Middle School to vote early Tuesday morning.

“I want him to be president one day,” she said, as the little boy huddled against her leg, refusing to make eye contact with me.

In the meantime, Steinnett said she had a tough call to make when it came to voting for president. She didn’t like either of the candidates, Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, but ultimately decided on Clinton in light of Trumps anti-Hispanic and misogynistic remarks.

Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

“The biggest thing for me today was that I had to vote for president,” she said. “Very undecided. I just, golly, it was a rough one today. I’ve voted for one every four years and it’s never been as tough as it was today.”

Steinnett, like other South Bay voters I spoke with Tuesday morning, said the presidential race, pot and the death penalty were the main issues that brought her to the polls.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in September, Steinnett voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I’m a cancer patient,” she said. “I’m battling breast cancer. And doing a lot of research, they’re saying cannabis has some cure to it. So, yeah, that was the one that was big for me.”

Diana Gonzalez, also a Chula Vista resident, works in the medical field and also voted to legalize marijuana.

“I don’t use marijuana, but I think it might help stabilize something,” Gonzalez said. “You know, there are those people who don’t have a medical marijuana card, but then they get charged with a crime. For medical purposes, it does help.”

Gonzalez also said she came to vote for Clinton, “so Donald Trump doesn’t win.”

The death penalty was another big issue for Gonzalez. She voted against Proposition 62, which seeks to repeal it, and yes on Proposition 66, which would fast-track appeals.

Frank Kingman, a 55-year-old Air Force retiree, said he postponed a trip to Arizona to make sure he could vote Tuesday morning

“It’s our constitutional right,” Kingman said. “Everyone who has the ability to vote should be able to decide the course our country will take.”

The big issue for Kingman was the death penalty. He voted against both death penalty measures on the ballot, choosing to maintain the status quo.

“I think you should be punished for very, very serious crimes,” he said.

George Abraira, a car salesman in Chula Vista, voted for Trump.

“This election is so strange with the two candidates we have for president,” Abraira said. “It’s part comical and part drama. I felt compelled to make a decision.”

All of the Chula Vista residents I spoke with, except for Steinnett, voted in favor of the two sales tax increases on their ballot, Measure A, a countywide tax increase for transportation, open space and infrastructure, and Measure P, a local Chula Vista infrastructure measure.

“My feelings are vote for anything that helps improve the community,” Abraira said. “I don’t mind paying for better roads.”

Kingman said that Chula Vista can’t count on Sacramento and federal funds to fix its roads and infrastructure.

“We have really bad roads here,” said Gonzalez.

Steinnett said she didn’t vote for either of the tax measures because in her many years in Chula Vista, she’s never seen the city fix anything.

“All this money that they get and I never see nothing get done,” she said. “You know, I’ve been living her for 55 years and the roads are horrible here in Chula Vista. We continue to vote to give them money, but where does the money go?”

In National City, Lisa Monday-Gomez went to the polls in a wheelchair after a recent foot surgery, to vote to legalize marijuana and “make sure Trump doesn’t win.”

“Alcohol is legal,” Monday-Gomez said. “And alcohol is way more damaging than marijuana.”

Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

Monday-Gomez and another National City resident who left the polls right before her, Jorge Gamino, only voted on a few of the numerous races and issues before them, including Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana, and the presidential election.

Gamino also came out to vote to make sure Trump didn’t win, and to repeal the death penalty.

“Why did I vote?” asked Ed Garcia in Spanish as his wife pulled him away as they exited the polling place at the Casa de Salud in National City. “So Trump won’t win.”

Closer to the border in San Ysidro, after a field worker for the Registrar of Voters, brought out a tape measure to ensure I was exactly 25 feet away from the polling station at San Ysidro High School, Gloria Reyna told me that in her 41 years, this is the first time she’s cast a vote for president.

Reyna said she normally just votes on local measures. She didn’t want to tell me which candidate she settled on, but said, “I’m not for either candidate.”

Stephanie Romero said she came out to vote for Clinton.

Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

“It’s important – the historical aspect of potentially electing our first woman president,” Romero said.

Antonio Ley lives a cross-border lifestyle, with addresses in both Tijuana and San Ysidro, and is involved in politics on both sides of the border.

“I did not vote for Trump,” Ley said. “His rhetoric is divisive and disgusting.”

Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

Ley didn’t vote for Clinton, either. He wrote in Bernie Sanders.

Reyna, Romero and Ley all voted in favor of Measure A.

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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