PHOENIX - Long lines were the norm Tuesday at many polling sites across the state as Arizonans helped choose a president, elected state legislators and decided on a ballot initiative aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer confirmed that voter volume was heavy, but declined to provide early figures.
"I just know that there is a huge voter turnout, and that we have people still standing in lines," Brewer said two hours before the polls closed. "It's very impressive, and I think what else is impressive is their behavior. Everyone is being very patient."
Waiting times ranged from a few minutes to at least an hour, depending on the precinct, but the interest was keen regardless of how many people were at the polls.
"I think this election is very pivotal and people are very passionate," said Cleora Marion Karstadt, a poll worker at a central Phoenix polling site. "Voter interest seems to be very high and very polarized."
The wait at Karstadt's site at the Greater Progressive Christian Church seldom exceeded five minutes. Several miles to the east at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the line at the Salt River Community Building was 20 deep in the parking lot.
People waited patiently outside the imposing structure with red-and-beige sandstone walls and a tower decorated with the Native American deity Kokopelli, always depicted as a humpbacked flute player attracting lightning bolts.
Volunteers handed out doughnuts, muffins, apples and bananas at a table outside the building. They passed out ball point pens and sun visors at another. The price was wearing an "I Voted Today" sticker.
The Tribal Council began pushing voter registrations and voting in July.
"Since then we've been working as a team in preparation for our employees and our community members to take this effort throughout our community," said Janet Johnson, a council community-relations employee. "The native vote is very important, and that's the message that we want to send out."
More than 100 people were lined up at the West Olive Church of Christ in Peoria, one of Phoenix's western suburbs.
Early voting was also brisk throughout the state.
At least 914,000 early ballots were sent out in the weeks before the election and at least 662,000 had been returned by midday Tuesday. Four counties - Gila, La Paz, Navajo and Yuma - had already exceeded their historic rates of return.
Valerie Iverson hit a rough stretch early Tuesday.
The Scottsdale woman was handing out palm-size posters for Eric Meyer, a Scottsdale School Board candidate, and backing a bond issue to refurbish the local district's high schools "without a tax increase."
Then a man hurrying into the Eldorado Park administration building refused the tiny campaign ad, telling her, "I will vote the way I choose." Minutes later, a woman on her way to vote was even more direct: "Don't even think about it."
In both cases, Iverson backed off and answered pleasantly, "OK, thank you."
She said the rejections were an anomaly and that what she described as a last-minute push to help a friend's candidacy hadn't been overly rough.
"They just happened to be back-to-back like that," Iverson said. "In general, people have been very supportive."
Brothers Carl and Steve Young exemplified the intense interest generated by this year's presidential election.
"We used to do this with fists," Carl, 39, quipped during a break in their argument over the merits of President Bush, whom Carl supported, and Democratic nominee John Kerry, 38-year-old Steve's favorite.
Kerry has no plan to improve the country, said Carl, the pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
"He's just like anybody else that has a bunch of hogwash, 'To get me into office,'" Carl said. "He flip-flops, he doesn't condone anything. He says he's a Roman Catholic, and yet he promotes stem-cell research. That's just totally opposite to his beliefs."
Steve, the security manager at the tribal casino, spent 14 years in the Marine Corps, including service during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and said he would prefer Kerry as commander in chief.
"Kerry's been in combat; Bush hasn't," Steve said.
The two also split on Proposition 200, a ballot measure that would require identification to vote. Carl said he carries a card to prove he is a resident of the reservation. "Will it inconvenience me? No. I already showed my card," he said.
Steve said he thinks anyone should have the right to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life, and ought to have be able to use political activism in that quest.