For Elisa Waters, who lives just down the street from Dogwood Elementary School, this year's election marks the first time she feels that she has a deeply personal stake in the outcome.
Her 20-year-old nephew is fighting in Iraq and she is worried the military under President George W. Bush might become overextended and require a draft, making her two sons eligible for compulsive service.
"We've been on pins and needles. Everybody's worried," Waters said, after she voted for John Kerry at Dogwood on Tuesday morning. "I'm not too thrilled about this war either. That country doesn't want us there. They didn't ask us to go in there. And the whole thing happened because of Bush."
Waters was among the unprecedented numbers of Reston voters who stood in lines for as long as two hours Tuesday to cast their vote.
Out of dozens of interviews with voters, none said they had seen such a high turnout in Reston for a presidential election. Specific turnout numbers for Fairfax County were not available by press time.
While many voters said they believed Virginia was already decided and would swing Republican, they said they felt it was their civic duty to cast a ballot, making their voices heard.
"After the last election in 2000, people realized that one vote can make a difference," said Andrea Parent, a world history teacher at South Lakes High School who voted for Kerry at the Lake Anne Community Center on Tuesday. "I've never seen lines this long for an election."
ED TOTON, WHO STOOD in line to vote for more than an hour at Aldrin Elementary School before 9 a.m., said he did not mind the wait because he had been looking forward to casting a vote in support of the president.
Toton, like dozens of other Reston voters from both parties who were interviewed as they left the polls, said he was primarily concerned with the United States' foreign policy and the government's direction in the global war on terror and in Iraq.
"I think Bush is serious about the war on terrorism," Toton said, after he cast his ballot for the Republican incumbent. "He understands the struggles the world is in right now. We're in World War Four."
Similarly, Lake Anne resident Otto Tubito said he is supporting Bush because he feels Kerry is not sufficiently adamant in his beliefs to lead an effective fight against terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.
"I'm not sure about Kerry," he said. "I don't want to use that particular phrase. You know: flip-flop. But I think he does change his positions. I just don't understand where the guy stands."
MANY VOTERS INTERVIEWED Tuesday at three Reston precincts said they decided to support Kerry because they believe he would be more of an internationalist and focus on diplomacy rather than unilateralism.
"Bush is a maverick cowboy," said Pamela Gayster, as she left the Dogwood polling place with her "I Voted" sticker stuck to her shirt. "Kerry? I have total confidence he's a diplomat. He's more of a statesman."
On the other hand, Ira Motazi said the United States needs a strong leader who will not worry too much about how the nation's actions appear in the world, so long as they are making Americans safer from al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
"Bush is stronger on security," Motazi said. "I made up my mind a long time ago."
JOSEPH HARRINGTON, who cast his ballot for Kerry after waiting through the snaking line of voters extending out Aldrin's front doors, said he also agrees with the Democratic challenger's world view and wants to see the nation shift away from conservative politics.
"The major issues for me this year are the war and the basic principles of the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party," he said. "The Democrats back the little people. Not so much worrying about cutting taxes."
Likewise, Barbara Avent, who also voted for Kerry at Aldrin, said she supported Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but he has since divided the nation that once stood solidly behind him.
"Things have gotten out of hand," she said. "We need someone with a fresh outlook."