The tight race for president this year and the nasty fight for a U.S. Senate seat appear to be factors driving a large turnout at Fairfield's polls Tuesday.
A worker at the Registrars of Voters office said at midday, even though an official turnout percentage was unavaulable, the number of people casting ballots was higher at that point than in the 2008 presidential election.
Also on the ballot in Fairfield were contests in the 4th Congressional District and four state legislative seats.
Workers at several of Fairfield's polling stations Tuesday morning reported that balloting started strongly.
Several voters interviewed at random outside polls at Roger Sherman and Fairfield Ludlowe High schools cited the national debt, taxes and the economy as their main concerns.
Messina said everyone should vote and that he didn't vote out of a sense of obligation. "I wanted to vote. You're 18 and over, it's your right to vote and everybody should exercise their right to vote," he said. He said he voted for Republican candidates "across the board."
Stephen Carr, whose home on Fairfield Beach Road escaped significant damage from Hurricane Sandy, said he and his wife, Deborah, always vote and that he didn't remember seeing so many people at a polling location in the past.
Stephen Carr, who also voted Republican across the board, said the two races he was most interested in were the presidential and Senate races. Deborah agreed. "The top two were of concern in terms of who we picked," she said.
Deborah Carr, who declined to say for whom she voted, said the process was "very quick, very organized" despite the crowd. "It was good. It was an easy experience," she said.
Stephen Carr, though, said a heading on the ballot that said voters should read all instructions before they vote was placed at the bottom of the ballot, where voters may not see it until after they selected their candidates.
Annette Ham, the moderator at Sherman School, said voters were standing in long lines at 6 a.m. "It's been very busy. It's been super busy," she said. "Very enthusiastic voters at 6 a.m." "From 6 to 7 [a.m.], I did not sit. We got off to a bustling start," she added.
Dorothy Domeika, a former Representative Town Meeting member from District 3, was outside Sherman to support state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, and Michael Mears, also a former RTM member, was outside supporting Kupchick, state representative candidate Chris DeSanctis and Steve Obsitnik, a Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4.
Former Democratic state Rep. Thomas Drew, defeated by Kupchick in 2010, was outside to support President Obama, Himes, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, who's running for an open U.S. Senate seat, and Sue Brand, a Democrat who's challenging Kupchick.
Drew said he too thought voter turnout appeared high. "I think it has been an especially vigorous morning, vigorous and busy," he said. "It's a celebration of democracy, standing out here at the polls."
Drew said he's been very busy with his law practice and business life since leaving the state House of Representatives but didn't rule out a candidacy in the future. "Life has surprising twists and turns, so I'm keeping myself open to possibilities," he said.
A few miles away, turnout also was high at the Ludlowe High polling station, with polling moderator Gary Potmesil reporting that 663 people had voted at Ludlowe as of 8:32 a.m. "I've never seen lines like this before -- absolutely phenomenal and it just doesn't stop," he said. "At this rate, everybody's going to vote."
Bill Domeika, Dorothy's son and a District 9 RTM member, who was outside Ludlowe supporting Kupchick, said, "The line was out the door this morning for an hour."
Brand, who was outside Ludlowe with her daughter Elizabeth, 20, said she heard turnout also was heavy outside the Fairfield Senior Center, where residents in District 1 vote, and at Holland Hill School, where residents in District 8 vote.
"All good turnouts -- really good," Brand said. "I don't remember seeing such a turnout in a long time." Elizabeth added, "Holland Hill had a line of cars just waiting to pull in."
Arthe Kelly, of Unquowa Road, declined to say for whom she voted but said her main issues were the economy and federal deficit. Kelly said she always votes because she believes it's her "duty to show up and be counted."
Stephen Boccarossa of Fairfield said he was "very motivated" to vote this year and was worried about the national debt, taxes, the economy and jobs. Boccarossa said he voted Republican "across the board." Boccarossa said he thought of sacrifices that have been made for the right to vote as he walked out the door at Ludlowe. "I was walking out these steps and the first thing I thought of was how many men died for this right," he said.
Ludlowe High's cheerleading team was holding a baked goods sale in the parking lot to raise money for cheerleading competitions. "We have shifts all day today and they're going to be bringing more stuff," said Patrice Tsopanides, a sophomore.