Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA—I’ve always been skeptical of the notion of the “shy Trump voter,” just because it seems as though I meet so many outspoken Trump voters in the wild. Certainly at polling places here in Manheim Township, a collection of suburbs north of Lancaster, it’s the Trump supporters who have the most to say about their choice. Meanwhile, many voters who stop at the Manheim Township Democrats table on the way into the polling places politely decline to talk about their vote on the way out.
Like many counties in Pennsylvania, Lancaster County has gotten plenty of attention from both campaigns in 2020. In the past week, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, and Ivanka Trump all hosted campaign events here, and on Monday, Douglas Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ husband, met veterans at a local landmark, the “Biden Barn”—a barn painted with a huge Biden campaign logo. Many districts in Manheim were narrow wins for Trump in 2016, and he’ll likely need to improve that edge in suburbs like this to hold the state.
Ellie Stock isn’t shy. “I’m not embarrassed to vote for Trump,” she said outside her polling place, a church on Lititz Pike. “I’m embarrassed for the people in this country who loot and steal even though they already get everything for free. I’ve worked since I was 8. And I’ll work until I can’t anymore. I don’t take handouts, not like those people.” Asked what she does for a living, Stock said, “I’m unemployed. I work at Manheim Auto Auction, but it’s closed because of COVID. Thank God my husband’s still got his job.”
Howard Rhinier isn’t shy. Leaving the polling place with his wife, Sheri, and wearing a Punisher mask, Rhinier, an officer in his Teamsters local, explained that he voted for Obama twice but he could never vote for a Democrat now. “I can’t stand this woke correctness,” he said. “They hate you if you don’t believe the same thing they do. You and me may not agree, but I don’t hate you because of your beliefs.” Asked if he thinks Manheim Township will remain Trump country, he frowned. “Probably a toss-up,” he said. “Lotta liberal losers that’s moved here.”
One such liberal loser Rhinier would say he does not hate is Jeanette Marquez, who recently moved with her mother and father from New Jersey and now works in her father’s grocery store. “We’ve lost loved ones to the pandemic,” she said, while her mother looked on. (Lancaster County has had three days of more than 100 new COVID infections in the past week, including the county’s highest-ever daily total, 117 on Friday.) “Maybe someone else can handle this better, because Trump’s ignoring it.” Marquez is excited to be in a state where she feels her vote finally matters. “But no matter who wins,” she said, “we raised our voices.”
A few miles down the road at a funeral home that’s serving as a temporary polling place for two different districts, another Biden voter stopped to talk. “Trump’s got a celebrity mentality,” said Clarissa Stewart, a massage therapist with her young son in tow. “It’s all paparazzi and bullshit. You never know what the truth is.” She voted in person, not by mail, because she read something on Facebook that said, “Would you mail $500 in cash to yourself?” “I wouldn’t do that,” she said, “and I wouldn’t mail my ballot either.”
Donna Depasquale was also accompanied by her son, but he’s a lot bigger than Stewart’s; college student David Robinson, a good foot taller than his mom, voted for the first time during lunch. “I’m a proud mother,” Depasquale said. They both voted for Biden. “There’s a lot riding on this,” Robinson said. “I’m excited and nervous to be voting in Pennsylvania.”
“We tried, but we couldn’t persuade him,” another mother said. She meant her college-aged son, who accompanied her and her husband to the polls for his first time voting in a presidential election. Mom and Dad voted for Trump; son voted for Biden. “We’re taking him out of the will,” she joked. “Don’t write that down.” She said she was happy her son was voting, and happy he had educated himself on the candidates. Asked why she voted for Trump, the mom, who is white, said, “I think Trump’s done amazing things for minorities! He really has their best interests at heart. He sees all Americans as equal. I don’t know where people get the idea he doesn’t.”
Her son wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders but has been pleased to see Biden adopt some of Bernie’s policies—“He’s sort of gotten on the bandwagon,” he said. “Stuff like college education, health care, corporations being able to pollute without consequence.” He’s not enamored of many Trump supporters, he said, while his parents looked on. “They’re really putting him on a pedestal. Glorifying a man like that, I can’t get behind that.”
“There’s been a lot of discussion in the family,” his dad said. “Not convincing, really. Everyone’s minds are made up.” Asked their names, husband and wife demurred, shy Trump voters at last. “It’s his job,” she said. “They’d be weird if they knew who he voted for.”
“I’ll give my name,” said their son, the outspoken Biden voter. “I’m Bryce. I should be in college in Philadelphia right now but instead I’m making $10 an hour at the North Face store.”
Support Slate’s politics coverage
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Join Slate Plus to support our work. You’ll get unlimited articles and a suite of great benefits.