New Hampshire hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, featuring candidates for the Republican and Democratic nomination. Of the state’s 1.33 million residents, more than 870,000 residents are registered to vote. Polls started opening at 7 a.m., except for a handful of communities that begin voting just after midnight. In Dixville Notch, voters in that tiny town gave Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich two votes, Republican Donald Trump got two and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won four votes for his Democratic bid.
Here are snapshots of voters who went to the polls Tuesday:
Tracy Carl, 38, of Merrimack resident, voted for Trump after weighing between him and Sanders.
“I found him to be the most appealing and the most likely to win,” Carl, an unaffiliated voter who tends to vote Republican, said of Trump. “Also, I don’t want Hillary.”
The owner of a child care center, she said being a small-business owner was a factor in considering the two candidates.
“I think they’re more for small business than the other candidates,” Carl said, stressing she hasn’t yet decided how she’ll vote in the general election. “It’s time for America to see itself as a business.”
Kathleen Bowles, 60, of Merrimack, who voted with Carl on Tuesday, said she also cast her ballot for Trump largely because of his success in the business world.
“I went with him because I feel like we need a change from the political arena to the business part of America,” said the cafeteria worker, who is also unaffiliated but tends to vote Republican.
Going forward, Bowles said, she’d be watching to see if Trump starts to “calm down” his rhetoric.
“It was a tough call,” she said. “I’m still really undecided right now.”
Jack Wimme, 56, of Merrimack, said he picked Kasich after also considering New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“I think he best represents my views, which are a little bit more moderate,” said Wimme, who is unaffiliated but voted Republican in the past two presidential elections.
“It was a coin toss, to a certain extent. They’re both governors, and they have that experience. But I just felt Kasich best represents where I stand. Plus, I met him. That helps.”
Greg St. Laurent, a 68-year-old computer engineer who lives in Manchester and works over the border for a small Massachusetts firm, cast his ballot for Kasich in the GOP primary.
“I think the bulk of the country is indicating its displeasure with the establishment. So, I think it’s important that everyone comes out to vote in the primary to indicate whatever pleasure or displeasure they have,” he said.
“The division between the parties is greater than it has been. Being a kid, I remember people a lot more united behind a particular candidate.”
Cait McKay, 29, of Manchester, voted for Sanders, who is locked in a tough battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. McKay works as a supervisor at a residential care facility for children with special needs.
“The biggest issue that I hear from everyone is the economy, the economy, the economy, the economy,” McKay said. “But, those aren’t the biggest issues to me. I am more interested in gender equality, in equal pay and equality for everyone in health care — in just building a better society for everyone. Other countries all over the world have it so why is it so crazy to think that we can have it, too?”
“I really find it odd that one side is scrabbling so hard against each other to find one person that they’re all supposed to support. I mean, how is everyone going to pick someone so specific if they can’t even get along with each other inside their party? That’s one of the reasons that I really like Bernie. He’s not taking the negative ads or the negative stabs at everyone.”
Merton Grant, 87, and his wife, Phyllis, 80, say they voted for Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz because he’s a born-again Christian like them.
“It was a tough choice. There were a lot of candidates, but we had to agree. Otherwise, why cancel each other’s votes?” said Merton Grant, a retired real estate agent.
The Nashua couple, lifelong Republicans married for 58 years, said they paid close attention to the debates but met just one candidate face-to-face: Ben Carson, who attended Sunday services at their church this past weekend. “Nice guy. Not sure he has a chance, though,” said Merton Grant.
Phyllis Grant, a retired nurse, said the two were ultimately swayed by the way Cruz handled himself in debates.
Cody Langis, 23, an unaffiliated voter who works in sales, voted for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2008 but skipped the primary in 2012. This time, the Concord resident voted for Trump.
“I believe he’s probably the best candidate to protect the constitution. I was a little undecided going into it. I thought Bernie has a lot of great ideas to protect the economy,” Langis said. “I’m very against gun control. I don’t believe that stripping citizens of arms is going to do anything for this country at all.”
“I’m hoping that Trump ends up not being as crazy as he’s coming off in the moment.”
Not everyone votes in New Hampshire, despite its prominence in the presidential primary season.
Richard Kipphut, 61, moved to New Hampshire in 2006 from his native Connecticut. He has yet to take advantage of voting in the first-in-the-nation primary.
A librarian at Plymouth State University, Kipphut says it’s just too early to cast a vote and he doesn’t like to have to declare for one of the major parties to vote in the primary.
Kipphut is an unaffiliated voter, and he usually votes for Democratic candidates — though he says he voted for Republican Richard Nixon in his first presidential election.
“I know you’re supposed to say every vote matters. I don’t think it’s going to matter much, at least not for me,” he said.
He plans to vote in the general election.
John Starer, 72, of Bedford, a Republican who owns a company that makes glue sticks, voted for Cruz.
“I think he’s about the only one who could possibly get elected as a Republican. I’d like to think Trump had a chance, but no,” he said.
He said Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, also vying for the GOP nomination, lacks the experience to be president. “Maybe next time around.”
Starer said he made up his mind about five minutes before he voted after narrowing down his choice to Trump or Cruz.
“The most important thing is to get back to our original values. We have to have someone who can put a coalition together, someone who’s closer to a Reagan Republican.”
Megan Tolstenko, 33, an unaffiliated voter from Manchester, voted in the GOP primary for Christie.
“He pulled on my heartstrings,” said Tolstenko, who works in the financial services industry.
She described herself as “scared out of my mind” about the Islamic State group and thinks Christie would be best able to manage the country’s defenses.
“It’s nice to see someone who’s not forgetting about our role in the world,” she said.
She met Christie last summer.
“I didn’t think I was going to vote for him then. Today, I woke up this morning and something clicked,” she said. “At the end of the day, I need someone who has compassion and cares about the world as well as the United States. It seems like some candidates have lost sight of that, but for some reason, it just seemed like he always had that on his mind, and he talked about it in every speech. There was some integrity there, and that resonated with me.”
Nicole Reitano, a 24-year-old embroiderer from Nashua, says she voted for Sanders because she likes his economic policies and the fact that he supports abortion rights.
“I felt like he was the most honest,” Reitano said. “He’s had the same views forever, and he’s never budged. That makes me feel confident in him.”
An independent who voted for President Obama in 2012, she briefly considered voting for Clinton.
“She seems to flip flop a little bit, but if she ended up winning instead of Bernie, I would be OK with that. Anybody but Trump is good for me. Pretty much.”
Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Bedford, Alex Sanz in Manchester, Philip Marcelo in Nashua, Lisa Lerer in Concord and Lisa Marie Pane in Plymouth contributed to this report.
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