WASHINGTON — Turnout appears to be high in many parts of the country, with long waits at some polling places as voters deliver their Election Day verdict.
More than 131 million people turned out to vote for president in 2008, shattering all previous records. This year, both Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama were counting on their supporters to show up in high numbers – especially in the handful of competitive states that will decide the victor.
Obama was hoping for robust turnout among minorities, a key component of his winning 2008 coalition, while Romney is looking for a strong showing among working-class white men, a group that has leaned his way in polls.
"I've been waiting for four years to cast this vote," said Robert Dan Perry, 64, as he cast his vote for Romney in Zebulon, N.C.
Obama in particular seemed keenly aware that his electoral fate hinges on turnout. In the final days of the race, his campaign shifted gears from working to persuade undecided voters to imploring those already in his corner to make sure they vote.
"We feel confident we've got the votes to win, but it's going to depend ultimately on whether these votes turn out," he said Tuesday morning during a visit to a campaign office near his South Side Chicago home.
Anecdotal reports from across the country suggested voters were enthusiastically making their voices heard. Long lines were reported from Michigan to Florida, from Nebraska to South Carolina.
In Virginia, election officials said statewide turnout would likely meet or exceed the 2008 Presidential Election. Pennsylvania officials said they expected about 70 percent of the state's nearly 8.5 million voters would turn out by the time polls closed.
All eyes were on the Northeast, where lingering disruptions from Superstorm Sandy led officials to worry that storm damage might keep people from the polls. To their relief, turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged areas in New Jersey and New York. Officials in New Jersey decided Tuesday to give some voters displaced by last week's storm an extra three days to cast special email ballots.
But not everyone affected by Sandy felt voting was in the cards this year. In Hoboken, N.J., Anthony Morrone said he's never missed a vote – until now.
"No time, no time to vote, too much to do," said Morrone, 76, as he surveyed the exterior of his home: a pile of junked refrigerators, a car destroyed by flooding and a curbside mountain of waterlogged debris.
Even before polls opened on Election Day, more than 32 million people had cast their ballots, either by mail or in person, in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In a number of states, including Iowa, Maryland and Montana, early voting was on track to far exceed totals from 2008.
Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Zebulon, N.C., Samantha Henry in Hoboken, N.J., and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.