vote-signThe candidates have had their turns on the political stage. Now it’s time for the voters to speak with their ballots.

Hundreds of thousands of Iowans have already spoken. According to Monday night’s early voting data, more than 630,000 Iowans either cast an absentee ballot or voted at a satellite voting site during the state’s early voting period.

Pat Rynard has been involved in Democratic campaigns in Iowa for the past decade and he runs a political website called “Iowa Starting Line.” He says this year has “definitely been different” in terms of voter enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle.

“In a way, that makes early voting that much more important,” Rynard says, “to find more and more ways to make it easier for voters to actually vote.”

Today, precincts will be open for “Election Day” voting for 14 hours, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Craig Robinson is a former political director for the Iowa GOP and he has experience with Election Day drama.

“In 2006, I was a poll watcher from five o’clock at night until seven o’clock at night,” Robinson says, “and it’s when I realized that everyone who was streaming into this Poweshiek County precinct wasn’t voting for my candidate.”

More than 1.5 million Iowans voted four years ago and most will do so again in 2016. Kathleen Ary of Ames has made voting a regular habit.

“I feel like I’m doing my civic duty,” Ary says. “I think it’s important to participate in the process, so voting is very important to me.”

Twenty-year-old Callie Walseth, an Iowa State University student, did not vote early. She’s going to her local precinct today.

“I think it’s a special thing,” she says. “As a first time voter, it’s something I want to experience on the actual day.”

Diana Grundy, a native of Sioux City, says every vote makes a difference..

“If you don’t vote, then you’re just automatically giving it to the other side,” Grundy says. “You lose your say when you don’t vote.”

Tracy Luke of Ida Grove has been voting since she was 18.

“I’m probably the most unsure this year as I’ve been,” says Luke, who has a husband in law enforcement and a son in the military.

Dennis Smith of Sioux City has retired after a career in the Army. He’s offering this advice to other voters: “It’s freedom. It’s your right. It is patriotic…Whatever they want to vote, whatever they believe in, that’s the way they should vote.”