The Undecided

The Undecided

Decision 2016
These six people, living in contested states, are committed to casting their ballots, unlike many undecided voters. They will help decide this election.
Get to know them by scrolling below:

Scrimping, saving, but coming up short


By Katie Reilly

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Donna Doubrley says her rural Virginia home, filled with mementos like the cake topper from her civil-union ceremony and rosary beads hung next to a peace sign, tells an eclectic story. Her kitchen, where she cooks only organic food and methodically cans fruits and vegetables, tells another.

Doubrley, 55, who is white, stacks floor-to-ceiling shelves in her kitchen with hundreds of homemade canned vegetables and sauces, including wild berry jam, spicy sauerkraut, low-sugar apple butter, cream-style corn and green tomato relish.


“The common market limits people that are anything different from anybody else, so canning is my way of saying I get to be an individual,” she said. “It’s a dying art.”

She thinks of herself as an individual in politics, too. A registered Republican and self-described independent, she voted for Democratic President Barack Obama twice.

Almost a year away from the November 2016 presidential election, she is pessimistic about the direction of the country, citing unemployment, social intolerance and conflicts in the Middle East.

Like Doubrley, 16 percent of independent voters identified unemployment as the most important problem currently facing the United States, second only to concerns about the economy in general, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Doubrley, who budgets carefully but said she still comes up $150 short each month, said she is concerned that none of the candidates seem to be familiar with the daily lives of average Americans.

Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump has a fortune of $4.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He says it is more. Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton reported that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made almost $140 million between 2007 and 2014.

“They’re not in touch. They haven’t been in touch for years or else they wouldn’t have the funds,” Doubrley said. “It’s a Catch-22: If they’ve got the money to be in politics, they’re no longer in touch with the average citizen.”

Doubrley said she and her partner cannot afford regular trips to the movies or dinner at restaurants anymore. When they splurge, it is at an Indian buffet down the road.

Their 900-square-foot home sits off a winding rural road in Gladys, Virginia, lined with farmland, several churches and houses with faded American flags hanging from porches and mailboxes.


Doubrley, who was diagnosed with epilepsy, receives disability benefits. Her partner, Jen Doubrley, is a school counselor who recently took a second job as a Dollar Tree cashier three days per week to help them make ends meet.

She is also an insulin-dependent diabetic, which has led Donna Doubrley to criticize pharmaceutical companies for expensive medicine and make homemade low-sugar desserts and jams, avoiding store-bought goods that are both pricy and processed.

While she thinks change is necessary, she does not think the government should be more involved in regulating pharmaceutical companies or many other areas.

As few as 370,000 out of Virginia’s 8.3 million people could decide the election in 2016. Donna Doubrley is one of them.

“Not everything that’s a concern is necessarily something that can be fixed,” she said, weighing her belief that the government has too much debt already against her belief that cutting existing entitlement programs would devastate the most vulnerable.

“There’s no one candidate that’s got the magic wand, but there may be one candidate that has a better insight for taking a better step toward where we need to go, and that we can always hope.”

Aging, ill and looking for security


By Emily Stephenson

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Ed Haggerty is surrounded by the U.S. presidential race in Nashua, New Hampshire, the state’s second-largest city.

The New England state is among the first to hold its presidential nominating contest for the November 2016 election, so candidates flock to towns like Nashua. Haggerty and his wife canceled their landline to avoid the phone calls from campaigns.

As Haggerty, 66, drove down Main Street one Tuesday in September, he pointed to pubs and other spots where politicians sometimes speak. There is a bust of John F. Kennedy where the president formally launched his campaign in 1960. Haggerty noted that Kennedy did not announce he was running until January of that election year. Campaigns start earlier now.


Haggerty, who is white, is a registered Republican and voted for Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. But he has voted for Democrats before, including twice for President Bill Clinton, whose wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, leads the pack seeking her party's nomination for 2016.

Haggerty is most concerned about how candidates would protect Social Security benefits. He expects to begin drawing retirement benefits in April, after three years of disability leave from the state of Massachusetts, where he was an auditor.

Haggerty, once a regular racquetball player, was diagnosed in 2011 with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder that affects motor skills. “I started tripping over my right foot,” he said. “I had to start thinking about it to make it move.”

Because he left work earlier than expected, Haggerty’s wife will probably work a few years more than she had planned at a nearby community college. While she is at work, Haggerty, who has adult children, exercises and takes classes at a local college, including a recent one on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”


Haggerty said he thinks Clinton would most likely protect retirement benefits. “You’ve got some people out there who want to get rid of that stuff, but right away you start crossing off these candidates,” Haggerty said. “That’s the biggest problem with the Republicans, I think, is none of them know what it’s like to be out there living in this society right now.”

About 30 percent of respondents in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll said Democrats had a better plan for Social Security; 26 percent did not have a preference and 25 percent favored Republicans. Haggerty agrees with Republicans that federal spending is out of control, but he said the party wasted opportunities in the past to make changes. “Republicans keep saying they want small government, but they’ve never had it,” Haggerty said. Republican lawmakers also have not done enough to crack down on illegal immigration, Haggerty said, which he believes puts a burden on the health care system and social welfare programs.

Haggerty and his wife are doing fine financially, he said, but he wonders what he would do if his retirement benefits do not cover all his expenses once his disability leave ends. “I may have to go out and see if I can get some kind of job once my benefits run out,” Haggerty said. “I’m limited to what I can do on the computer because my hands don’t work too well. I can't really write with my left hand. I don’t know what I can do. Be a greeter at Wal-Mart maybe.”

As few as 60,000 out of New Hampshire’s 1.3 million people could decide the election in 2016. Ed Haggerty is one of them.

Stop screaming!


By Ginger Gibson

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Elaine Hale, 62, considers her job to be volunteering with public service groups in her native Florida.

She works with a drug prevention group. And volunteers with an advocacy group comprised of the spouses of physicians -- her husband is a doctor with the state’s public health agency. She serves on an advisory board for a local hospital. There are groups targeted at educating teens. She goes to school programs. And helps draft budgets and promotional fliers.


The cause of justice and fairness keeps Hale going. And it it’s that same principle that she says helps her decide which politicians get her vote.

She is one of the nation’s few undecided voters. And as a lifelong Florida resident, Hale knows just how crucial her vote can be in a state that has more than once decided a presidential election.

The mother of two grown sons -- plus a couple of “take in” kids who stayed with her as teens and she views as practically her own now -- Hale explains she always tries to find the candidate who is most focused on fairness. Her biggest turn off? The excessive “frothing at the mouth” that has become prolific in politics.

“Why do we have to yell and scream at each other?” Hale said. “I don’t think that we ever get anything accomplished that way.”

She admits that she leans left -- often favoring Democrats in federal elections including President Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008. But none of the crop this year has her very excited. Once a young, enthusiastic “bra-burning” feminist, Hale says the idea of voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton doesn’t thrill her.

While she agrees with Republicans on a number of fiscal issues, she has not seen much of a track record that they are willing to follow through. She cites years of Republican control in Washington that didn’’t actually result in reduced spending or deficit reduction.

She understands the need to save money. She drives a 1996 Toyota. She and her husband paid their home off more than 15 years ago and are slowly updating the interior in hopes of selling it when they retire to move into a smaller condo.

She is also embarking on a new set of financial challenges, trying to help her elderly father transition from his own home into an assisted living facility.


At 90 years old, he was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Much to her surprise, she was able to quickly sell his home to cover the cost of the new treatment.

But that does not mean the bills are not continuing to cause problems. When she began overseeing his medication, he was paying more than $900 a month for his prescriptions as he attempted to get them filled through the Veterans Administration. He served during World War Two.

Hale waited until Medicare Part D enrollment opened earlier this year and moved her father out of the VA system and into the Medicare system -- saving her almost $800 a month in copays.

As few as 840,000 people out of Florida’s 20 million could decide the election in 2016. Elaine Short is one of them.

Fix the VA system, she says. And make sure Medicare remains for those who need it. And as far as the Affordable Care Act goes, she said it is playing a crucial role in her community, helping those who did not have insurance before get coverage. But as the wife of a physician, she said she also sees the problems it is creating for doctors. Hale said doctors who remain her friends complain of regulations that affect treatment and a difficult process to get paid.

“Why don’t we fix it so it really help the people who need it?” she said.

Looking for a lesser evil


By Katie Reilly

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Mike League is fascinated by the fall of Mayan civilization, curious about the unique factors that influenced the Arab Spring and disappointed in America’s current presence on the world stage.

A federal accountant in suburban Ohio who is white and studied anthropology in college, League, 38, said he is still interested in the rise and decline of people and nations, especially ahead of the November 2016 presidential election. And because he lives in a key swing state, he has a chance to do something about it.

“I think the 20th century showed that America was quite exceptional and quite remarkable at what it was able to accomplish -- you know, World War One, World War Two, the space race,” he said. “People don’t look to America anymore for its leadership.”

A registered independent, League voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. He said he has been disappointed by Obama’’s presidency, describing a Democratic Party that he says has moved too far left.

Video for Mike League

“To me, they’ve kind of let the fringe groups of the party take over, like the environmentalists, the Occupy Wall Street people, the Black Lives Matter people,” he said.

“All these people that are a small group are basically steering the direction of the party when, you know, it’s gotten so bad that you don’t see hardly any compromise between both parties anymore,” he said.

League said his job has given him good work-life balance, allowing him to save money on food and gas while primarily working from home in an office featuring pictures of his two young sons and emblems of his alma mater Ohio State University.

In August, his family of four moved into a new house in a growing Sunbury, Ohio, development, a neighborhood where tricycles and scooters lie in driveways, Halloween decorations and pumpkins color front lawns, and his son’s soccer coach lives down the street.

League, who waited until the housing market improved to sell his family’s old house and buy land for their new one, said it seems too good to be true, though he worries his sons will have less in the way of freedom and financial security when they are his age.


Gavin, 5, and Beckham, 2, were a green Power Ranger and a dinosaur on Halloween, and League expects them to be college students someday.

He said he is already planning to advise them to live at home and save money while they are at school, knowing he will not be able to cover the full cost of their college educations at the rate tuition continues to increase.

The average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university was $9,139 for in-state students and $22,958 for out-of-state students in the 2014-15 school year, according to data collected by the College Board. By some estimates, that figure could double or triple by the time League’s children enter college.

As his wife expects their third son, they are saving up to put a down payment on a minivan that will accommodate their growing family on weekends spent visiting parks and watching Gavin’s soccer games.

League’s biggest concerns are immigration reform and national security, placing him among a relatively small 8 percent of all voters and 5 percent of independents who say immigration is the most important problem facing the United States today, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

As he considers which person and party he will vote for, League likened it to choosing the lesser of two evils.

“Who’s going to screw up my country the least? Who’s going to screw me over the least when I get older?” he said.

As few as 560,000 out of Ohio’s 12 million people could decide the election in 2016. Mike League is one of them.

Dogged by debt, she wonders where the jobs are


By Emily Stephenson

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Dominique Malik cannot wait to graduate.

Malik, 26, started her undergraduate studies in 2007. She knew she wanted to teach, but she tried out music and English before realizing physical education was her passion.


Switching majors slowed her down, but Malik is, at last, a student teacher in Bayfield, Colorado, in the southwestern part of the state, and she expects to graduate from a university in the Denver area in December.

“I’m super pumped,” Malik said after a day of teaching, while sitting at a local coffee chain called Durango Joe's that is about a half hour’s drive from her school. “It’s time.”

Malik, who is black and grew up near Denver, is a registered Republican. She is pro-life and said she has supported Republicans on foreign policy.

Job openings for physical education teachers can be hard to find, Malik said, especially in southwestern Colorado. “The only time that a PE job will open up is usually because they retired. They don’t usually give those up very easily,” Malik said. “Right now it’s kind of just like a waiting game.”

Stories like hers are likely the reason 19 percent of respondents in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll under age 30 see unemployment and lack of jobs as the most important problem facing the United States today. That is the top issue for the age group.

Physical education is so important to Malik that, in 2012, she voted for President Barack Obama, largely out of support for first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity and increase physical education, or PE.

“All the things she’s doing for education and especially PE are amazing,” Malik, who has lobbied Colorado politicians to incorporate more movement in schools, said. “‘Let’s Move’ is a big thing now, and it’s making it easier for even classroom teachers to put things like brain breaks in.”

Malik has not had an easy path to her classroom job. She used her scholarships earlier in her academic career, and by the end, she had too many credits to take out new loans.


Even though she is teaching, Malik is technically still a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is paying tuition out-of-pocket this semester and will finish school with about $26,000 in loans, she estimates.

On top of teaching, Malik works most days as a cashier at Wal-Mart. She and her girlfriend share an apartment in Durango, and they share a car now, too.

As few as 247,000 out of Colorado’s 5.4 million people could decide the election in 2016. Dominique Malik is one of them.

Malik said she thinks Democrats generally do a better job on public education, but she is critical of standards that rely on standardized tests, which many Republicans also oppose.
“We just sit there and put all this testing out, and we say you have to take this assessment to prove that you’re learning something,” Malik said. “They’re not learning anything because all we’re doing is teaching them how to take a test.”

Calling for compromise


By Ginger Gibson

The code included in the script section below is all you will need to embed this profile! Copy the code and paste it into your page.

Richard Wonase attributes being so fiscally conservative -- both in life and politics -- to his mother.

His parents divorced, and then, when he was 7 years old, his father died. It was the 1950s in Rockford, Illinois. His mother went to work for Smith Oil Company, supporting her three children on $2.35 an hour, plus $100 a month in Social Security benefits.

Wonase, now 68, knew that his family was not rich. But his mother, who died several years ago, saved and that meant they still got to enjoy some treats. He recalls fondly the annual family vacation to Lansing, Michigan. And on the rare occasion they dined out, the instructions were always the same: Order whatever you want from the menu, but be sure to clean your plate.

Video for Richard Wonase

It is a code he still lives by.

But that does not mean he is backing a Republican. When it comes to issues like Social Security, Medicare and gay marriage, he finds himself more in tune with Democrats. And he finds the Tea Party and conservative pull in the Republican Party to be a turnoff.

An independent, Wonase is one of the thousands of people in the nation who remain undecided. He voted for Barack Obama in the last two elections, but he’s holding off in making a decision about 2016. And he hails from Iowa -- one of the handful of states that are likely to decide the November 2016 election.

For Wonase, the most important trait in a candidate is not their view on a specific issue. It is all about cooperation.

“You’ve got to work together. You’ve got to come to a compromise,” Wonase said.

He finds pieces of his own life story in every issue currently being debated. And he admits that when forming opinions about political issues, his first criterion is figuring out the impact on his own life.


“Being a selfish SOB, how is it going to affect me?” Wonase says. “Right now Social Security, Medicare, which I’m on, is an excellent program. I’ve got no qualms.”

He worked his way through school at Loras College -- helped by that monthly Social Security payment -- and graduated with a degree in history and no debt. He tried teaching for a few years, but then after marriage and two children, decided the pay was not enough.

He ended up working as an engineer for John Deere at its Iowa headquarters. He retired after 30 years and now lives comfortably. He invested while he was working. He still gets a pension. And once again, every month he is collecting Social Security.

There is no greater testament to Wonase’s love of compromise than watching him interact with his wife, Diann Wonase.

Diann is a “bleeding heart liberal.”

“And you know what I would say,” Richard responded. “I saved and that’s where the fiscal thing comes. I saved my butt enough money so I could enjoy retirement. Because I didn’t want to be in retirement having to depend on anybody or anything else. That makes me the self-sufficient Republican. I did it all myself, I never got a damn penny from the government. But I don’t begrudge anybody who did get something from the government.”

“We are so fortunate,” Diann said. “We can travel; we can do things. We can have fun. And I see all these people who I love who can hardly buy their groceries. What’s wrong with that picture.”

As few as 140,000 out of Iowa’s 3 million people could decide the election in 2016. Richard Wonase is one of them.