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Pandemic, toppling Trump on the minds of women voters in Lebanon

  • In her office in Lebanon, N.H., Karen Cervantes, a longtime Republican, voted for Biden in this year's presidential election. She was on the phone with her husband Raul. They both cast their absentee ballots for Biden. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Sarah Fearon-Maradey waits in line outside the Kilton Library in West Lebanon, N.H., to register to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Fearon-Maradey said she would be voting for Biden. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

  • A sign in the snow outside the Ward Three polling location at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2020 8:03:36 PM
Modified: 11/3/2020 8:03:27 PM

LEBANON — This year marks the first time Karen Cervantes, a longtime Republican activist in Lebanon, cast her ballot for a Democratic candidate for president.

The 72-year-old city resident, who at least for now remains a registered Republican, cast her absentee ballot three weeks before Tuesday’s election for former Vice President Joe Biden. She also voted for Democrats U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen because should Trump win, she doesn’t want him to have support in Congress to advance his agenda.

Cervantes’ votes for Democrats mark a change from four years ago, when she wrote in former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, instead of Donald Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

“I could not vote for either one of them,” Cervantes said Tuesday of her 2016 ballot. But, she said, “this time around it is absolutely too serious.”

Women voters across the Upper Valley helped fuel a large turnout in Tuesday’s election. While white women around the country helped elect Trump in 2016, many women — but not all — in Lebanon sought to prevent his reelection this year.

“I’m terrified that Trump will pull something and win,” 70-year-old Martha Larrabee said after exiting the polls at the United Methodist Church on School Street in Lebanon.

Larrabee, who works part time at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover and cares for her daughter who is paralyzed, said she’s an independent who leans Democratic. Her vote for Trump’s challenger was influenced by Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s affecting everybody,” she said. “He just doesn’t seem to care.”

Shama Alam, a 40-year-old research epidemiologist, said she voted a straight Democratic ticket at the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon on Tuesday. Alam, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in the 1980s, has been a Democrat since she became a citizen and registered to vote at age 18.

Now, married to a man from Northern Ireland and mother to biracial children, Alam said she wants her “children to be safe” and feels the Democratic candidates will push for policies to address police brutality and systemic racism.

But some female voters like what they’ve seen from Trump. Donna Hartford, a 68-year-old retired dietitian who also voted in West Lebanon on Tuesday, said she supported Trump as she had in 2016 because he has done “a lot of the things that he said” he would. Her vote was aimed at preserving her liberty and opposing socialism, she said.

Hartford, who voted alongside her husband, Bruce, who wore a Make America Great Again hat into the polls, said she was a Democrat until Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008.

Republican Connie Aldrich, a 70-year-old retired administrative assistant, cast her ballot for Trump at the AVA Gallery in downtown Lebanon.

“I think he’s done very well across the board,” she said. Pointing to Trump’s response to COVID-19, Aldrich said, “I think he took care of it the way he should have.”

Both Biden and Trump supporters said they were glad to see their fellow Americans voting in large numbers.

Aldrich, who had waited in the cold outside AVA in a line that at times stretched about half a block, said she was “so glad to see so many people turning out.”

After casting her ballot for Biden at the Kilton library, 25-year-old Amanda Brandt, a researcher at Dartmouth College, said she “felt good.”

“I hope there’s a large turnout (to) get this back on track,” she said.

Turnout also was heavy in Vermont towns, boosted by the fact that every voter received an absentee ballot in the mail as part of COVID-19 precautions, and that many voted that way.

Windsor Town Clerk Amy McMullen said the town had received 1,163 absentee ballots by the close of business Monday and got more than 50 on Tuesday. Along with in-person voting on Tuesday, by 2:15 p.m. more than 1,600 ballots had been cast, about equal to the total votes cast in the 2016 election with almost five hours left in voting.

“It’s been amazing,” McMullen said. “Things are hopping.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213. Valley News Staff Writer John Gregg contributed to this report.

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