Polling places across the county opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, including seven on the University of Illinois campus.
Linda Yala, sophomore in LAS, was among the first few voters - all still dressed in pajamas - at Illinois Street Residence Halls in Urbana.
"I heard it's going to be a really big turnout and I wanted to make sure I had enough time to vote," Yala said. "I thought there would be a line (this morning), but then I remembered that this is a college campus."
Many students crawled out of bed early in the morning to vote before lines could grow.
"I just wanted to get here before the rush," said Mallory Burndick, junior in LAS, after voting at Snyder Hall. "In some early voting people were waiting for two hours and I definitely didn't want to wait that long."
A friendly reminder from his mom convinced Theo Kobleski, sophomore in LAS, to wake up early and vote at Lincoln Avenue Residence halls. But a strong interest in the issues being discussed and strong emotions about the candidates for president also had a major influence.
"America has changed a lot in the last eight years and people don't want to wait another four years for (positive) change," he said.
University employee Kimberley Hagemann voted before 9 a.m. and said she expects turnout to be high because of the "controversial" nature of the election.
Hagemann said her vote was based on the economy, and she expects that to be the deciding issue for most voters this year.
Election judges and officials are prepared for a long day, but Cody Bralts, a judge at Snyder Hall lounge said he's sure it will all be worthwhile.
"It's the best out of the class experience for civics because you really get to see what happens," Bralts, a junior at Urbana High School, said.
A large "rush" of students gathered at the YMCA on Wright St. when polls opened at 6 a.m., said Kevin Patel, an election judge at that location.
The judges are anticipating larger crowds between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Patel said, based on his prior experience as a judge. Jenny Putmann, an election judge at Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall, said this is the most intense, high traffic turnout that she has seen in her 30 years working the polls.
Just before 9 a.m., 226 had voted at the Illini Union. Shortly before 10 a.m., 205 had voted at PAR.
Deputy clerk Ted Apy-Tuhiso visited the polling place at LAR around 7 a.m. as part of his duties for the day.
"I wouldn't say there have been any problems - but there have been challenges," Aty-Tuhiso said. Those included typos on ballots and last minute coordination of election judges, he said.
County clerks and state election officials have been planning for weeks to prevent problems on Election Day.
Justice officials Monday were making preparations, too.
Nearly 166 teams from the Illinois Attorney General's office were planning to fan out across the state Tuesday to watch for instances of election fraud or voting-rights abuses. Federal prosecutors also were to be standing by.
By 8 a.m., 115 people had voted at Snyder Hall, according to Bralts.
First-time voter Kierra Barnett said she felt great after voting at LAR.
"I literally thought of how many black people couldn't vote before," she said.
Barnett, a freshman in LAS, said this year is special to her because it is also the first time her grandmother has decided to vote.
"It's an exciting day; it feels almost like Christmas," Alexzandra Jaskolka, junior in FAA, said after she voted at Snyder Hall. "I felt like Iwas making history by voting. It's cool to think about who was able to vote today because I wouldn't have been able tovery long ago (as a woman)."
Though early voting was a popular option for many Illinois voters, Courtney O'Donovan said she wanted the experience of voting on Election Day.
The freshman in General Studies voted for the first time Tuesday and said she planned to encourage others to vote during the day.
The economy has dominated the presidential campaign since markets began fluctuating daily.
"There's so much going on in our economy now," said Sara Hafezi, senior in Business. She voted at ISR Tuesday morning and said she and her roommates plan to watch the results closely in the evening.
"We're a pretty political apartment," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.