Massachusetts voters flocked to the polls today, drawn by the chance to vote in sharply contested races for president and US Senate. Many precincts reported long lines and steady turnout.
After long, intense campaigns, voters said they were thrilled, and more than a little relieved, that Election Day was finally at hand — and they were eager to have their say.
In Waltham, where voters began arriving at 6:30 a.m., turnout was strong.
“It’s wonderful,’’ said Georgie Hallock, an election warden. “And the number of absentee ballots has been fantastic.’’
Gilda Diorio, 67, voted Republican. It was “time for a change as far as the presidency goes,’’ she said. And she liked how US Senator Scott Brown, who is being challenged by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, “worked across the aisle.’’
Terry Goodridge, on the other hand, voted Democratic. Obama had “accomplished a lot,’’ she said. As for Romney, “we’ve had our fill of him,’’ she said.
In Copley Square around noon, the line to vote stretched out of the Boston Public Library and onto the sidewalk. Jim Riordan, 55, said he had waited in line two hours to cast his ballot.
“It’s just a total mess downstairs,’’ he said. “It’s usually bad, but this is worse.’’
Riordan, an independent, said he voted for Obama, who by his reckoning “did a good job,’’ and Warren.
Sarah Godfrey, 33, said she planned to split her ticket by voting for Romney for president and Warren for Senate.
“I’m just not happy with the situation right now, and if things aren’t going well, it doesn’t make sense to vote for the incumbent,’’ said Godfrey, who voted for Obama in 2008.
“I’m not saying it’s necessarily Obama’s fault, but maybe we can give somebody else a shot this time,’’ she said.
As of 3 p.m., 148,133 people had cast their vote in Boston, representing 38.26 percent of registered voters, according to the city. Turnout is slightly lower than during the last presidential election. As of 3 p.m. on Election Day in 2008, 152,780 people had voted, which was about 40.11 percent of registered voters.
Statewide, officials predict that as many as 3.2 million people could vote, surpassing the record set in 2008.
In Belmont, a cheer went up outside the Beech Street Center after Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and his wife, Ann, cast their votes in their hometown.
“I think you know,’’ was Romney’s reply when reporters asked for whom he had voted for president. Romney, who drew several hundred supporters as well as backers of President Obama, said he was feeling “very good, very good.’’
Wearing his signature barncoat and accompanied by his wife and one of his two daughters, Brown voted in Wrentham around 7:30 a.m. He said he voted for himself, and that he expected the election, which is considered to be extremely close by experts, will have a clear winner by 10 p.m. tonight.
“It’s going to be a close election and I look forward to the results,’’ Brown told reporters.
Some 200 people were already in line waiting to vote when Brown arrived.
“I’ve never seen it this crowded before,’’ Brown said. “And I’ve been here for 25 years.’’
In Cambridge, Warren cast her vote around 7:45 a.m., and went to the polling place accompanied by her husband and granddaughter.
“This campaign was never about me,’’ Warren told reporters after voting. “This campaign was about all of us, about all the people who invested in it, all the people who truly believed that if you got out there and worked together you can make a difference.’’
Polls are scheduled to close at 8 p.m.
In Somerville, Bill Chisholm, 48, waited for nearly two hours to vote for Elizabeth Warren. But he had a long day of anticipation still ahead.
“I’m excited to see results,’’ he said.