Mullen | Do-over Day: This vote, this year, was a big deal. 

Nineteen-year-old Cole Hartley didn’t know what to make of me, this random person wrapped in rain gear who jumped him as he exited the West Jordan Public Library on Election Day. n

He was peeling off the back of his “I Voted” sticker and about to slap it on his chest when I asked him if he wanted to discuss his vote.

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“Not really,” he said. I told him he didn’t necessarily have to tell me whom he picked for president. I was more interested in how confident he felt that his choice would change this country’s course.

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“Well, I don’t feel that confident,” he said. “But I have to vote.”

n

It was Coles’ first-ever election and his enthusiasm was impressive. He showed up in spite of the fact that he grew up with parents, he said, who never, ever voted—and in spite of having friends who couldn’t care less about this or any other election. There he was in the cold mid-morning, sleet blowing outside, his long black hair grazing his shoulders, his nose pierced with two tiny silver hoops and his lower lip sporting a hoop as well.

n

I drove all over the Salt Lake Valley between 9 a.m. and noon on Election Day, stopping at schools and libraries to talk to voters. By the time you read this, we will have a new president-elect. But I don’t know who he is yet. What I was looking for in my decidedly unscientific exit poll was the confidence level of people who walked away from the touch screen.

n

This is—no kidding—some country. We can carp and moan and slide into a funk over our presidential leadership for a full 1,459 days. When we wake up on the 1,460th day, we get one big do-over. And people I connected with on Nov. 4—regardless of whether their pick was McCain or Obama—were happy the day had come at last.

n

I asked them a series of questions: How much trust do you have in the person you voted for? How strongly do you feel your choice for president will change the country for the better?

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At Olympus High School in Holladay, a husband and wife, ages 71 and 67, didn’t want to give their names. “Mitt [Romney] was my guy,” the man said. “But we didn’t get Mitt, so I had to pick from the two we had.”

n

He picked Barack Obama. So did his wife. Given John McCain’s age and health history, he said, he worried about leaving the country in Sarah Palin’s hands. And that mess about her Neiman-Marcus wardrobe didn’t please him, either.

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“Obama’s a pretty good guy. I think he can run the country. And his wife, well, she is so educated and such a wonderful speaker.”

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At the West Jordan Library, a 62-year-old woman told me she voted for McCain because “I still support the war.” She’ll back the war until all the troops come home, she said. “Then, after they come home, we should have a big party.”

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At West Jordan Middle School, Paul Walters, 65, wasted no time in telling me, “We’re Democrats!” His 63-year-old wife Jane waved him off and gave a little eye-roll. They said they never miss an election, but this one carries extra weight.

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“We’re making history,” Jane said. “We voted for the first black man ever to run for president. This is something to tell my great grandkids.” To which Paul added, “I hope this country has moved past its prejudices.”

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Jane’s 32-year-old son, Mark Heinecke, stood quietly until I asked him how he felt about his choice. “We need this change,” he said.

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Stepping toward the exit, Paul shared one last thought: “Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to have a president who’s smarter than most of us?”

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On the far north end of the valley shortly before noon, the lines were picking up at Day-Riverside Library in Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood. I approached Fowsiya Abdi, who stood out in a black-and-white houndstooth jacket and wore a black scarf on her head. She is 22, a student at Salt Lake Community College and had just voted in her second presidential election. Fowsiya immigrated to the United States at age 6 from Somalia.

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“The last eight years, it’s been really bad,” she said. “It was more important to vote this year than ever.” She chose Obama. “I agree with him,” she said. “And I do have hope with him.”

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Nina, a 44-year-old woman who emigrated from the Philippines 12 years ago, voted for Obama because he is “qualified, intelligent and he can keep his cool.” That matters, she said, because “we have wars going on all over this world, and I want someone who can think before he acts.”

n

It seemed they all exuded a sense of power as they walked away. This vote, this year, was a big deal. Cole Hartley, fresh from his first election, understood that, I think. “Voting is the one freedom I still have,” he said, and he walked away.

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