‘I've Been Waiting for This': San Diegans Flock to the Polls

Polling sites opened at 7 a.m. PT, and will stay open to voters until 8 p.m. PT

San Diego voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in a historic election: a day one 74-year-old woman said she’s been waiting for all her life.

“I’ve been waiting for this – to be able to cast this ballot again [for a woman] – and I think we have a chance that she’s going to be elected the first woman president,” San Diego resident Nell Smith told NBC 7 outside the Registrar of Voters.

Smith – who describes herself as an “old-aging, feminist workhorse" – said she has a lot of memories of presidential elections, including the 1948 race between Harry S. Truman and Thomas E. Dewey. Smith was in grade-school at the time and remembers going with her parents to the polls.

Smith also recalls her mother letting her skip school in 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower stopped into her town, and how she saw Eisenhower from afar, on the back end of a train.

In the early 1970s, when Smith reached voting age, she had a chance to vote for a female candidate: Shirley Chisholm.

“I’ve been a longtime feminist since I was a young woman, and I voted and very proudly cast my first ballot for a woman – for Shirley Chisholm – in the fall of ’72 when she ran for the presidency and, really, essentially got nowhere with it,” Smith recounted. “I’ve always voted across party lines for good people.”

She said voting for a female candidate once again – many decades later – feels very special to her, despite how "distressing" this election cycle has been.

Smith was joined at the Registrar of Voters by many other locals who lined up bright and early on Election Day to cast their ballots. The polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.

NBC 7 also spoke briefly with a WWII veteran and his wife who were decked out in patriotic gear on Election Day, also proud to cast their votes. The veteran said his first-ever polling experience was voting for Truman.

Paula Payton, a patient at Sharp Memorial Hospital, was able to vote through an absentee ballot, even while hospitalized.

“It lifted my spirits,” she said, of how important it was for her to vote. “I was given the gift from my nurse letting me know that I was going to be able to vote even though I was in here.”

Payton was one of many patients able to vote from the hospital through an absentee ballot, which the hospital staff helps to coordinate.

“I was feeling very down that I was still going to be in the hospital for voting day because I had counted on it [voting] so much,” she explained.

The hospital said giving patients this opportunity to vote is important since many patients arrive at Sharp hospitals unexpectedly. Patients who voted on Election Day had completed absentee ballot applications that were then taken to the San Diego Registrar of Voters by hospital staff and volunteers.

Completed ballots were picked up and delivered to the Registrar of Voters on Election Day from patients at Sharp Memorial Hospital, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns and Sharp Mesa Hospital.

Philippe Montgrain voted with his wife at a polling place near the Immaculate Conception Church in Old Town San Diego. The couple came prepared, writing down their choices on a piece of paper and then marking them in the ballot booth.

The couple’s young children were in tow. Montgrain said they used Election Day as an opportunity to teach their kids about the importance of voting.

“We've been very open the whole time with them about our responsibility to get out and vote,” Montgrain told NBC 7. “They were very curious about the process, so we decided to bring them along – show them very early what it's like so when they're 18 they can come out and vote as soon as they can.”

Some San Diegans took to social media after they voted, some saying they felt "victorious" and "emotional" after turning in their ballots.

Vote, then watch NBC 7’s complete coverage of election night.

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