Coles County citizens, activists vote for their causes

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Charleston residents wait in line to vote at the Coles County Courthouse.

Luke Taylor and Rob Le Cates

Mary Bushar served as an election judge for the first time in 2022 after retiring from teaching physical education at Charleston High School in May.

“I love the political process. I love history. I love civics. This is very cool to me,” Bushar said.

While national political divides deepen, local elections can somehow bring people together. In a small town, voters know the people they see at polling locations.

Bushar enjoyed seeing her former students come to vote and get involved.

“It’s refreshing to see people come in and care, no matter who they are,” Bushar said. “I think if you don’t vote, you really don’t have a right to complain.”

That’s why voters said they showed up this year: to encourage the change they want.

Rain Sanburg, a recent Eastern graduate, said her pro-choice stance brought her out to the polls.

“As a woman, I’m feeling very passionate about some of the issues that are prevalent right now in our country,” Sanburg said. “I really want to make sure that women are all getting the choices they want to make with their own bodies.”

Jenna Nevara didn’t mention a specific cause, but also saw voting as a way to promote her viewpoint.

“I know like voting helps get the people into office and help keep them there and prevent a lot of like the shitty ones like getting in there and like doing stuff to like, take away rights,” Nevara said.

As someone who typically votes by party, Nevara had some advice.

“You should probably look up the judges are beforehand because they don’t say like, a party. [The ballot] probably just says their name,” Nevara said.

Some Coles County residents take steps to get involved beyond voting. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have headquarters they use to organize, rally behind their beliefs and promote candidates.

Nels Lopez voted a few weeks ago, so he decided to spend election day volunteering around the Republican headquarters.

“I’ve seen a lot of elections. I’m 54 years old,” Lopez said. “This country seems to swing both left and right, and I always seem to land somewhere in the middle.”

Lopez said that he considered himself a liberal until recently becoming “disturbed” about the direction of the Democratic party. Now, he believes in what Republicans are doing.

“I’m still very much anti-war, pro legal marijuana. Some of the LGBT issues that are going on with the trans community especially, are things that I think society has to slow down a little bit on rather than speed up,” Lopez said. “I’m not anti-trans in any sense of the word. It’s just that I am not quite sure that ‘Bruce’ Jenner is actually a woman.”

Caitlyn Jenner publicly came out as a transgender woman and changed her name in 2015. She is also a Republican and ran for governor of California during a recall election last year.

His husband, Eric, initially disagreed with his change in viewpoint, but Lopez said he was later “red pilled” on his own.

Lopez said that policies on economics, crime and energy pushed him to switch parties.

Over in the Democrat headquarters, Mac White spent the day calling Coles County residents to urge them to vote. He also voted ahead of time to spend the day volunteering.

“This is pretty solid Republican county. I figure the more people that vote the more Republicans we have voting, but I think everybody should vote. I’m all for democracy,” White said. “Whoever wins is the winner and I’m not going to contest any election, but I just want everybody to vote.”

White said that he did encourage those he called to vote for Democratic candidates despite his assumption that many would lean Republican.

Early results from Coles County elections can be found here.

Rob Le Cates contributed to this story.

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]