For some, it was a sense of civic duty. For others, it was a chance to voice anger at inflation or high crime. Still more savored the opportunity to send a message to Washington.
Voters on Tuesday thronged to polling stations across the United States to express themselves on a wide array of divergent concerns.
Their choices will decide the control of the US Congress, as well as many governorships, state legislatures and local offices.
Here's what some voters said drew them to the polls.
- 'Exercise democracy' -
"I've tried to come first, make sure that I do my part, and then I can get to work," said Robin Ghirdar, coffee in hand at a voting site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"There's so much polarization and misinformation that I'd like to make sure that my voice is heard."
In Union City, a majority Black suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, 26-year-old attorney Kuanna Harris said history pulled her to the voting booth.
"A bunch of my ancestors, whether they were Black or women, were not able to vote, so I think God put me here at this particular time to carry on that torch for them."
And on the opposite side of the country, in Los Angeles, Luciano Gamiz says he was thinking of authoritarian nations that "eliminate the voice of the little people."
"As a first generation American, it's an opportunity to just exercise my freedom and my right to vote, so I love it."
- 2020 election denial -
At a polling site in Brooklyn, New York, retired police officer Kevin Flynn voted because of "the situation that happened on January 6th" 2021, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol.
"Once an officer, always an officer... officers got injured" in the assault, said the 60-year-old. "It needs to be rectified."
Voter Donald Newton, 82, told AFP in Arizona's capital Phoenix that he believes Trump's unfounded claims of massive election fraud are the "truth."
He pointed to a discredited film's conspiracy theory about people smuggling illegal votes.
"It explains it all. And if you go and watch that, you'll be convinced this is the truth of what happened there: it was stolen, the election," he said.
In contrast, 30-year-old lawyer Alexandra Ashley, in Pittsburgh, said that "some people are trying to undermine democracy. And it's something that we can't lose."
And Susan Kwushue, a 50-year-old healthcare provider in Georgia, said having voted, she knew she "contributed in my own little way by voting to make sure that things get better."
- Abortion rights -
Reproductive rights are a banner issue for many voters, after the US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion.
In Brooklyn, sustainability consultant Helen Rubenstein said that her motivation for voting was "first and foremost, my female reproductive rights, which are a healthcare issue."
Phoenix voter Mona Sablan, 56, said that for abortion, "it's the decision for the woman."
"I don't think the state -- I don't think the local, (or) federal (government) should have anything to say about this."
On the opposite side of the issue, 72-year-old Paul McMahon says he's opposed to abortion beginning at conception.
"Life is the most important thing to me," the retiree says outside a suburban Pittsburgh voting site.
- Toxic politics -
With growing political fissures in the United States, some voters said they are fed up with the hostility.
In Brooklyn, 39-year-old software engineer Quonn Bernard says "some candidates that have been up for office recently are into mud-slinging and negative campaigning."
"I just don't want those people representing me at the highest levels."
Pennsylvania voter Kay Georgopolous says she's opposed to Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, whom she thinks is "just a salesman."
"Politicians, a lot of them are playing games to keep us fighting amongst ourselves, the little people," she said.
Joshua Beron in Ohio told AFP that "I really try to not think of myself as being part of one party but try to vote for the best candidate."
Analysts have also warned of the threat of violence around the elections.
Donna Audritsh, a voter in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, says she hopes that the country can "have a civil discourse about whatever the result is and that we can move forward instead of getting mired in fighting and arguing."
One 64-year-old voter in McAllen, a city in Texas along the US border with Mexico, said he hopes that there will not be a repeat of 2020.
"My expectation is that everybody acts civilized, that... all the parties accept their winnings or defeats and that we all act as a country," said Enrique Ayala.