"We're here to learn about democracy!" said 7-year-old Cecilia Neil.
Santa Cruz County residents hit polling centers early Tuesday morning to cast their votes. While their political opinions differed, they all agreed that voting was an essential aspect of civic duty.
"As opposed to being apathetic, I'm exercising my right to vote," said Christian Gomes, an artist and musician voting at the Superior Court of California, Santa Cruz.
Gomes, a registered Independent, said he has been anticipating Election Day for a long time.
"I'm glad it's finally over, which I think is a popular sentiment," Gomes said. "I think the election process takes too long, particularly during the primaries. I got really tired of hearing about the Republican primaries."
The majority of voters we spoke with said they were in favor of President Obama, and they talked more about the presidential race and statewide initiatives than local politics.
Santa Cruz resident David Waller said he was anxious to know the outcome of the elections.
"It's going to be close, and I think that's frightening," said Waller, who voted at the Museum of Art & History.
In addition to the presidential race, Proposition 37 was a highly discussed topic at polling places Tuesday morning, with many Santa Cruz residents in favor of it. The California ballot initiative would require genetically modified food to be labeled.
"I think that this proposition alters our future," said Moses Massenburg, a recent UC Santa Cruz graduate. "It also reflects how far we've come as a society and our consciousness of what we consume."
Massenburg said the election was especially significant to him as an African-American. He voted at the Superior Court of California, Santa Cruz.
"It felt good to vote in the sense that I couldn't have voted 50 years ago," Massenburg said. "I thought about that on the way here."
Proposition 35 was also well discussed at polling places. The initiative repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Santa Cruz citizens were generally in favor of the proposition.
"There are some propositions on the ballot that really made it worthwhile to vote, particularly repealing the death penalty," Gomes said.
Michelle McKinney, a teacher from Monarch Community School, said she hoped bringing her students to the polling center would encourage them to vote in the future. The entire kindergarten through sixth-grade school is currently participating in a trimester long-theme on democracy, elections and civic duty.
"This is a really important process, especially for the children," McKinney said. "We want them to feel confident so they'll participate in this later."
Waller, who works in education as well, said funding for schools impacted his voting decisions Tuesday morning. Waller voted yes of Proposition 30, which would increase taxes on those earning more than $250,000 for seven years, and increase sales taxes by 1/4 cent for four years to fund kindergarten through community college education.
Waller said he was opposed to Proposition 38, which would increase taxes on single filers earning over $7,316 by .4 percent and on filers making over $2.5 million by 2.2 percent to fund kindergarten through 12th grade education.
"I'm deeply opposed to taxing the poor," Waller said.