Finally, after months of campaigning and a seemingly endless stream of TV attack ads and negative mailers, it's time for voters' voices to be heard.
Election precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.
To avoid long lines, voters in Stanislaus County and beyond are urged not to wait until the last minute to cast their ballots.
A record number of Stanislaus residents are registered to vote 232,909 and election officials say they will do everything possible to make sure all polling places have enough ballots.
"Please vote as early in the day as possible," urged Lee Lundrigan, Stanislaus' clerk recorder and registrar of voters.
Lundrigan expects the biggest crowds will be during the first hour precincts are open and the final hour before they close. Voting tends to be light during the early afternoon, so she encourages those who can to come then.
"Everyone in line to vote by 8 p.m. will be able to cast ballots," she said.
More than 60,000 ballots have been cast and counted and those results are expected to be released about 8:15 tonight.
Those vote-by-mail ballots were received by Thursday, and they were run through the county's electronic counting machines Monday morning. The machines, however, will not reveal vote totals until after the polls close this evening.
More than 59 percent of Stanislaus' voters about 138,000 of them received vote-by-mail ballots this fall. Thousands of completed ballots poured into the election office the past four days, but they will not be counted until later this week because the election staff must confirm each ballot was properly signed by the voter.
Ballots must be received today
There's still time to drop off vote-by-mail ballots, but it is too late to send them through the postal service. They must be delivered by hand before 8 p.m. today to the election office at 1021 I St., Suite 101, Modesto, or to any polling place in the county.
Voters who want to cast ballots in person must go to their assigned precinct. There are 167 polling places scattered around the county.
"It's very important voters go to the correct polling site," Lundrigan said.
To find the right polling place, voters can look on the back cover of their sample ballot booklet. Or they can look up their poll location on the county's election Web site www.stanvote.com or call (209) 525-5200.
Election results will be posted tonight by The Bee at www.modbee.com, and they will be updated throughout the evening for every race in the region.
State, local laws on ballots, too
Besides the presidential election, votes will be cast for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, California's Senate and Assembly, and city offices in Turlock, Oakdale,
Riverbank, Patterson, Hughson and Waterford.
Eleven state propositions are on the ballot.
San Joaquin, Merced and Tuol-umne counties have numerous local contests today, too, including votes on a variety of school bonds and local measures.
According to the California secretary of state's office, 18,245,970 residents have registered to vote in this election. That's 76.7 percent of those who are eligible to vote.
In Stanislaus, 72.1 percent of eligible voters registered. Of them, 40 percent are Democrats, 39 percent are Republicans, 16 percent do not have a party preference and the rest were split between minor parties.
In San Joaquin County, slightly less than 70 percent of eligible voters registered. Of them, 43.6 percent are Democrats, 36.9 percent are Republicans and 15.6 percent have no party preference.
In Merced County, 67.2 percent of eligible voters registered. Of them, 42.9 percent are Democrats, 33.4 percent are Republicans and 17.5 percent have no party preference.
In Tuolumne County, 80.9 percent of eligible voters registered. Of them, 32.3 percent are Democrats, 42.4 percent are Republicans and 19.2 percent have no party preference.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.
Today is Election Day and polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mail ballots must be received by today to be counted. For voters who have questions about ballots, polling places or other subjects, here is where to find answers:
Stanislaus County: (209) 525-5200 or www.stanvote.com
San Joaquin County: (209) 468-2885 or www.sjcrov.org
Merced County: (209) 385-7541 or www.mercedelections.org
Tuolumne County: (209) 533-5570 or www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov