Nettie Price voted for Obama in 2008, and in the past the registered independent has voted mostly a straight Democratic ticket. But not this year.
Standing outside her polling place at Castle Heights Elementary School in Beverlywood, Price said this time she voted a straight Republican ticket, based on one issue: economics.
“Obama had four years to fix things. I voted for him four years ago, but no way in hell would I vote for him again,” said Price, who runs an adult basketball league.
She voted no on Proposition 30 and on most propositions that would raise taxes, but voted to change the “three-strikes” law.
Her husband, a retired high school football coach, is a longtime Republican, and he voted that way this election. “I’m sick of big government — it doesn’t work,” he said.
Price said all her friends and neighbors are Democrats, so she doesn’t usually talk politics.
But with her vote cast and the late-morning crowd light outside the school auditorium, Price wasn’t shy about her views.
“I think Obama did a horrible job — just horrible,” she said.
To Sol Berger, which candidate or measure he voted for isn’t as important as the fact that he gets to vote.
The 93-year-old Holocaust survivor grew up in Poland, and he has seen what nondemocratic regimes can do.
“I know the difference,” Berger said, as he waited for his ride outside of Congregation Mogen David on Pico Boulevard near Roxbury Drive, where he had just cast his ballot.
Berger said he’s voted in every election since he and his wife, Gertrude, moved to the United States in 1950. Sol survived the war by disguising himself as a Polish laborer and escaping with a partisan unit to the forest. Most of his family did not survive.
He was a Zionist from the age of 15, he said, and tried to get to Palestine before the war but wasn’t able to get out.
“I vote for anybody who wants to defend Israel,” Berger said. “And I always like to vote for Jewish representatives.”
Berger is a speaker at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and at the Museum of Tolerance, and he lectures at colleges and high schools as well as at churches and synagogues. A few years ago, he was invited to speak at the University of Krakow, and the day after the election, he was scheduled to speak to the Los Angeles Police Department.
But today, he’s voting.
“I love this country. This country gave me opportunities I could never have anyplace else in the whole world,” Berger said.
Smack in the middle Beverly-Fairfax area, with its mix of Orthodox Jews and young hipsters, the Pan Pacific Park Senior Center was buzzing even in the late-afternoon lull of Election Day. While early-morning hours had seen long lines, as the sun blazed down at around 2 p.m., elderly couples shuffled in, and men in black hats and long coats rushed by.
Adam, a 34-year-old development officer on paternity leave, put on his sunglasses and pushed a stroller as he came out of the gym onto the blindingly white concrete. His month-old daughter stayed asleep while he voted.
Adam, who declined to give his last name, is an Obama supporter, but is frustrated, once again, about this election.
“I never feel that the choices in presidential elections are as good as they should be,” he said.
“I felt Obama was the best candidate for this election. I don’t think Romney represents the people as much as Obama does,” he said.
Carl Miller, a 29-year-old small-business owner, also voted for Obama. He’s relieved the grueling election season is over.
“I’m just glad we were spared some of it since we’re not in the swing-state crossfire,” he said.
He said he could go down a list of why he voted for Obama, but it comes down to direction.
“He is pretty diametrically opposed to Romney, and I’m much more comfortable with the direction Obama is taking this country,” Miller said.
Miller said he had initially been vociferously advocating for Proposition 37, which would require labeling for genetically modified foods. But after he did more research, he wasn’t satisfied with the way the law was written. “So I swung the other way,” he said.
A 63-year-old CPA with a long gray beard and wearing a black hat declined to give his name but said he voted for Romney.
“I believe we’ll be in deep trouble if Obama stays in,” he said. “He’s weak on foreign policy, he is not a supporter of Israel, and he’s a spendthrift who overpays but doesn’t produce results.”
And for Adam, the 34-year-old, the birth of his first child has affected how he thinks about politics.
“I think now more than ever about how important it is to create the world you would like to see your child grow up in,” he said.
San Fernando Valley
What convinces Jewish voters to back a particular candidate? Some brandish endorsements from prominent Jewish leaders, others recruit Jewish surrogates to trot out pro-Israel talking points, still others create specific campaign materials aimed at Jewish voters.
But for many Jews, the deciding factor can often be the advice or urging of someone close to them.
Margie Feld, who cast her ballot late Tuesday afternoon at Shaarey Zedek, an Orthodox synagogue in Valley Village that is her usual polling place, acknowledged that Howard Berman got her vote in large part because she had heard her friends and neighbors talking about him.
“It’s just who we hear about all the time – Berman this, Berman that,” she said.
Those pro-Berman friends didn’t just win over Margie Feld; they also got her husband’s vote. Jeff Feld said he had, until recently, been planning to vote for Berman’s opponent, Brad Sherman, but like many men and women across the country, he eventually voted the same way his wife did – and not just in the that heated Berman-Sherman congressional race.
“When she forces you to match up her ballot with yours, you know it’s gone too far,” Jeff Feld said with a smile.
It was the first time casting a ballot in a presidential election for Ben Bernshtein, and on his way out of Shaarey Zedek in North Hollywood, the 19-year-old college student wouldn’t say whether he voted for Romney or Obama. But he did know where he’d be watching the results come in: the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at California State University, Northridge, where he’s studying film, hoping to become an actor.
“You know the saying, ‘Two Jews, three opinions’? Well,” Bernshtein said, “this is going to be like 20 Jews, 50 opinions.”
Polling places often move around from year to year, but normally not on Election Day itself, as happened to the polls at Sinai Temple this year.
On Nov. 6, when the day began, 14 booths were positioned inside the West Coast’s largest and oldest Conservative synagogue. But after two trained volunteers, working with Election Protection, a nonpartisan election-monitoring organization, reported that the synagogue’s security guards were, as they do every day, using metal detector wands to screen each person entering the building, poll workers relocated the booths to a fenced-in courtyard outside the synagogue, just off Wilshire Boulevard.
“It can be intimidating,” said Brian Link, one of the volunteers, explaining why the polling places had to be moved to comply with election law.
Nobody appears to have been turned away from the polls at Sinai Temple while they were indoors, and the polls were even more visible and accessible after being moved.
In the mid-morning, a class of 19 4-year-olds from Sinai Akiba walked in with their three teachers. The kids had conducted a mock election in their classroom earlier in the day, one of the teachers said.
“Oreos or Chips Ahoy,” she said. “I don’t know who won. We haven’t counted the votes yet.”