MILWAUKEE - As millions of Americans cast their ballots ahead of, and on Election Day, there was a lot on voters’ minds, including plenty of worrying about the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world, with the world leader, the United States, also leading in cases and deaths, with more than nine million cases and more than 230,000 dead -- lives have been upended, businesses shuttered.
"I love that store," said Jeff Maurer, Maurer's Market. "I love being part of downtown Milwaukee.”
A year after opening his store on the first floor of the 7seventy7 building in downtown Milwaukee, 60-year-old Maurer was forced to close after business dried up.
"Parties need to come together -- both sides of the aisle -- at both state and federal level," said Maurer.
In 2016, Maurer – who lives in Wisconsin Dells -- says he voted for Hillary Clinton. He calls himself a true independent voter, voting for whoever can get the job done. He's just one voter unsure if he’ll be able to re-open his downtown store, still unsure Tuesday, Nov. 3 how he'd mark his ballot on Election Day.
"If we win Wisconsin, we win," said President Donald Trump.
Trailing in the polls, President Trump repeatedly visited the state, holding large rallies with cases of the coronavirus growing.
"I'm not saying it's not a serious thing, but it's overrated in my opinion," said Paul Wettstein, Jackson voter.
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are pictured during campaign stops on Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla & Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
In Brookfield, early voters said the president's focused on the issues they care about.
"I feel that Trump, even if he may not say it right, he nails the issues on the head," said Brandon Shaver.
With millions of motivations behind the ballots cast before Election Day, there was a throughline through it all.
"We should not be here with these masks on right now," said Michelle, who works as a school bus driver.
As voters cast their ballots early at Milwaukee's Midtown Center, the weight of the moment and the past nine months provided momentum.
"People died for our right to vote and it’s only my right to do it," said Walter Walker Jr.
"A lot of people thought their vote didn’t matter, so we all seen that all votes does matter, and it matters now," said Brian Millison.
While her family has stayed healthy, the pandemic has taken a toll on Child Care Administrator Pamela Kern's life.
"It's affected it in a way that is almost indescribable," said Kern.
"The mother in me wants to give them all a time out. Face the wall and think about what you said," said Mary Beth Waite.
Waite was first in line at her polling location Tuesday morning, carrying the frustrations of the pandemic with her, wanting to make sure her vote was counted, with parting wisdom only a mother can impart.
"Be kind," she said. "Find a way, no matter which candidate wins, find a way to make your neighborhood, your block, your house better. It's simple. It begins with respect."