No sooner had Margarete Parrish left the polling place at 39th and North Charles streets in Baltimore yesterday, than the question came at her from fellow voters still in line: How long did you wait?
The answer: an hour and 15 minutes.
But for Parrish, who left a temporary job in England to cast her vote in her home state of Maryland, the trans-Atlantic flight and 75 minutes spent in line amounted to a badge of honor.
"The wait was worth it," said Parrish, 52. "It felt so good that I would have waited all day until the polls closed to cast my vote."
She said she did not have confidence, after the voting troubles in the last presidential election, that her absentee ballot would be counted this time. So she made the trip to vote in person.
After watching the final weeks of the election play out across the country, Marylanders seemed more than ready to cast their ballots - particularly in the closely divided presidential race.
For many, patriotism trumped petty complaints about more-than-hour-long lines.
"That was one of the best hours I've spent," said Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, emerging from a voting booth at the 39th Street precinct. "It's so exciting to walk in there and - after you've worked so hard - see your own name on the ballot."
Also exciting, she said, was the turnout of other citizens. Pointing toward more than 100 people waiting outside the polling station, Mikulski added: "But I'll tell you what's even more exciting - that line!"
Anticipating lines, some voters arrived at the polls well before 7 a.m. armed with newspapers and mugs of coffee.
By the time the precinct doors opened at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia, Neil Gordon, 63, had already been waiting for an hour, and 72 people had lined up behind him.
David Pardoe, a Kerry/Edwards poll worker and a veteran at the precinct for 20 years, said, "I've never seen anything like this."
By 11 a.m., 556 - roughly one-third of the 1,581 registered voters at the Interfaith Center - had voted, and by 1:45 p.m., 754 voters had come in - about 48 percent.
Even those voters who acknowledged that voting in Maryland was unlikely to sway the election said they were as determined to cast their ballot as voters in battleground states.
"I'm sticking it out, not that it matters because of the Electoral College," said Penelope Asay, 30, waiting in a 90-minute-long line at the Hyattsville Public Library in Prince George's County. "Hopefully, they're doing the same in Ohio and Pennsylvania."
At the Silver Spring branch of the YMCA, early turnout was exceptionally heavy, according to a polling official. By 11 a.m., the line stretched through the gymnasium, out the entrance and into the parking lot.
The YMCA used the influx of visitors to raise money for disadvantaged youth to attend its school-age programs. So popular were the bagels, pastries and sweets for sale that Tasha Hall, group leader for the program, made a midday run to the store for more muffins.
"We figure we can get a lot of snacks sold because everyone comes to vote," she said.
"I voted, I swam, and I got my big, huge muffin for $1," said Barbara Sutton, 60, clutching a softball-sized cinnamon-walnut muffin.
Jennifer Holland emerged from the YMCA with her three children and a stroller containing a stuffed koala. She wanted her oldest child, Ben, 7, to watch her vote because he had learned a little bit about the election in second grade. Showing off his "I Voted" sticker, he said his mother came to vote for president because "it's important to have a president."
Most voters reported politeness at the polls. Voters of different political affiliations quietly awaited their turn.
But political passions could not be quieted at all the precincts.
Off Liberty Road in Baltimore County, a group of neighbors took shifts driving around with a bullhorn, urging people to vote.
Terry Howard, 58, a retired telecommunications engineer who took over the bullhorn for several hours in the morning, drove through a parking lot of the Village of Pine Run, shouting: "Wake up, America!"
Katy Meyer, a Maryland resident living in Boston, didn't need the screech of a bullhorn to get her to the polls.
The 22-year-old flew yesterday to Maryland to vote in Olney after several failed attempts to procure an absentee ballot before the election.
Last night, she flew back to Boston.
By the close of polling yesterday, the lines had thinned - but not the passion of the voters.
"This year is the strongest I've ever felt about politics," said Peggy Glasser at her Mount Hebron High School polling station in Ellicott City.
Her car had a political bumper sticker on it for the first time, and she volunteered her time writing letters and e-mailing voters in swing states.
She arrived at the polls 10 minutes before the 8 p.m. close, as election volunteers were packing up signs and getting into their cars.
"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," she said.
Sun staff writers Sheridan Lyons, Justin Fenton, Larry Carson, William Wan, Sara Neufeld, Kia Hall Hayes, Andrea Siegel, Laura Barnhardt and JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.