New York voters waited in lines that snaked down city blocks and through suburban school gyms Tuesday, cheerfully braving heavy turnout in hopes their vote could bring change.
"I never thought I would live to see this," said Roger Clark, a Barack Obama supporter who showed up in his wheelchair, in the dark, at 5:45 a.m. to vote at Manhattan's Times Square. "It's a miracle."
Voters began arriving at the polls at 4 a.m. in New York City, creating lines of hundreds from Crown Heights in Brooklyn to Manhattan's Upper East Side. New York City's Board of Elections dispatched 34,000 workers at 1,371 polling places to handle the heavy flow, said spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Rivera.
Voters said the stakes were too high to stay home.
Asked about the most important factor in his vote for Obama, Patrick Quinn of the neatly manicured Albany suburb of Loudonville pointed to his 8-year-old grandson. In Jackson Heights, Queens -- a neighborhood featuring everything from Himalayan fast food to a Punjabi unisex hair salon -- Mohammed Murad, 45, saw an urgent need to fix the economy.
"I'm watching my friends getting laid off and I think Obama is going to fix this mess and create jobs," he said.
The scene of packed polling places was replayed across the state during the morning, from the bedroom community of Wilton near Saratoga Springs to Westchester County. John Ritch, a poll worker in Chappaqua, said they had as many people come through by 7:30 a.m. Tuesday as they had by noon in 2004.
At midday in Buffalo and Saratoga Springs, poll workers were keeping up with a steady flow of voters and said waits had not been more than a few minutes.
The mood of voters was generally upbeat.
"This one I've been trying not to be so excited about, but I honestly couldn't sleep last night I was so stoked," said 29-year-old Obama voter Rachel Woods of Syracuse.
"Get this economy going!" implored 86-year-old Nell Schuler, a homemaker and mother of two who voted for Republican John McCain in the Rochester suburb of Brighton.
Across the state in Rotterdam, 51-year-old Mary Ann McNamara was excited that she and her partner, Sharon Wemple, were getting a chance to vote for Obama.
"It was the first time I could see a clear difference between the candidates," McNamara said. "And with all the stuff on the Internet and on cable, it was easier to follow."
Tracy Mason, was voting for the first time at age 27, moved, she said, by worries over the economy and what the future will look like for her 7-year-old son. The Rochester tanning salon employee voted for Obama.
Helio Menosel, a 67-year-old retired doorman in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, has two teenage children and also worries about the future. He voted for Obama because he's "going to have new ideas. He's more open about everything, the economy, education jobs."
Many McCain supporters said they admired his character, or as Steven Watkins of Long Island put it: "His commitment to patriotism through the years." In Harlem, Hoyt Manning, a registered Democrat, voted for John McCain, because of abortion and the economy.
"I'm 70, and I still have to work because we're losing our pension money," Manning said.
Still, Obama was comfortably ahead in pre-election polls and was expected to pick up the state's 31 electoral votes. He even appeared to be making inroads with voters who usually side with Republicans, like 26-year-old Jennifer Sunderlin of Albany.
"Don't tell my Dad, but I voted for Barack Obama," said Sunderlin. "I'm normally a Republican. I think it was believability in the end. I came in thinking Barack Obama was just a very charismatic guy and that McCain had all the experience. And then McCain went and picked Sarah Palin."
Terry Blaise, a 67-year-old retired CSX railroad worker and registered Republican who lives in the Syracuse suburb of Minoa, jumped parties.
"My grandfather was Republican. My father was Republican. I've always voted Republican. But after eight years of Bush and his screw-ups, I think it's time to get the Republicans out. McCain would be more of the same. And Palin is a joke," said Blaise.
Some down-ticket races offered more drama -- especially a handful of hotly contested state Senate seats whose outcome could determine whether Democrats snatch control of the Senate away from Republicans. The GOP held a 31-29 edge in the Senate going into the elections.
Not everyone was thrilled by the prospect of a state Capitol dominated by Democrats.
"I think we need half and half," said Eleanor Herte, a registered Republican who voted in the East Farmingdale firehouse on Long Island, "because somebody's got to argue the other side."