"I think I kind of lost hope a couple of years ago and even after the first debate I was pretty depressed," Darden said.
Ultimately, she decided to vote for Obama because of his record on women's issues.
"I've just had it up to here with the other side and women's issues are very important to me. I have a lot of nieces and that's the main reason," she said. "I just think all of them — the contraceptive issues, the Planned Parenthood — there are a lot of people that go to Planned Parenthood because that's all they have."
Alexandra Ammar, 25, will graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in December and concern about a career after graduation motivated her to vote for Romney.
"It played a huge role in my decision," said Ammar, a Republican. "I think even more so than the women's rights issues. What's important to me is having a job, being able to easily find a job and having more jobs for everybody in America is really important."
As for Romney, she said. "I think he's very sincere, very genuine. He seems to really care and recognize that people are struggling and suffering and I think he really has a good message for the country moving forward."
Matthew Brantner, a 26-year-old customer service associate at a suburban Richmond craft store, voted for Obama in both presidential elections.
"I guess he hasn't done a perfect job, but I feel like with Mitt Romney, you don't really know where you stand," she said. "He flip-flops a lot and it just seems he only wants to say what the crowd wants to hear that he's talking to right then."
In northern Virginia, Falls Church voter Renee Carter, 48, a physician cast her ballot for Obama and Kaine.
She voted for Obama in 2008 as well, but had been willing to consider Romney early on, viewing him as a "centered" candidate. As the GOP primaries wore on, though, she began to view Romney negatively.
She never wavered in her support for Kaine. She moved to Virginia during Kaine's tenure as governor and was impressed with him, particularly by his stance on the death penalty. Kaine, while personally opposed to the death penalty, carried out executions in his term, saying he believed his duty to carry out the law trumped his personal views.
"I could feel how he really thought through the issue," she said.
Adrian Massie, a 41-year-old civil engineer from Henrico County, voted for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson after having voted for Obama in 2008.
"I didn't see a whole lot of difference between Obama and Romney, so I figure if you can give credence toward a third party, maybe we can get some change in the future. ... It could've gone either way for me. I've thought about this the past couple of days, in four years has my life changed any differently than what it was before, and it really hasn't."
Chesterfield County resident Danny Broskie, 65, who recently retired from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, voted for Romney mostly because of social issues.
"I'm just praying for our country because I see it going morally bankrupt," said Broskie, citing gay marriage and abortion as examples.
Broskie also said he opposes Obama's views on immigration and his health care reform law, which he cited as the only thing the president managed to get done during the two years he had a Democratic Congress.
Austin Spriggs, 19, a sophomore at Virginia Union University in Richmond, cast his first ballot for President Obama. He said he forgave the president for not fully righting the economy and was willing to let him finish the job.
"We're all human, we all make mistakes," Spriggs said. "We do the best we can to not repeat those mistakes."
Don Musselman, a 75-year-old retired appliance salesman from Chesterfield County, voted for Romney but not enthusiastically.
"To be honest, I didn't want either one of them," he said. But he said Obama "is causing us to pay too much taxes and giving away too much money."
Said Musselman, "I want to see some change come. It's more economics than anything else."
Penny Taylor, 54, an insurance worker from Henrico County, voted for Romney. Her husband has been laid off twice in the last four years from jobs in construction management and is now doing temporary work.
"He aligns more with my values and also, I think we need a change to help the economy. ... I think he has a lot of experience in the business arena and hopefully he'll be able to bring that into the government."
Josh and Erin Evans survived the long wait at a polling place across from Virginia Union University in Richmond and voted for Obama, but each arrived at the decision differently.
"I feel conflicted," Erin Evans, 30, a registered nurse, said. "Financially I'm one way, the health care stuff another way."
Her husband, also a medical professional, was swayed by the passage of comprehensive health care reform, and Romney's ill-chosen, secretly recorded words describing nearly half the population as dependent on the government.
"What really pissed me off was the 47 percent comment," said Evans, 29, adding that his voting record through the years has been split Republican and Democrat. "At that point, it made it no questions asked for me. Before that I was still trying to figure out who was doing what, but I was still probably pro-Obama from the previous four years."
Beverly Webb, a 53-year-old salon owner from Chesterfield County, said she voted a straight Democratic ticket.
"I believe Obama is passionate about people," she said. "I also like the health care, which drove me to make the choice."
Webb, who said she voted for President George W. Bush eight years ago, also praised Obama's views on women's rights issues and his bailout of the auto industry. And she said the economy is rebounding under Obama's leadership.
"Banks are lending money, people are buying cars, staying in their homes and getting jobs," she said.
Rick Higgins, 51, and his wife, Monica Morris, 47, described themselves as independents but both voted a straight Democratic ticket at their Richmond polling place. Each voted for Obama for a second time.
"I still love him," said Monica Morris, a physician. "He's a sea of calm."
Higgins, a web developer, said he simply liked the direction the country was going under Obama.
"To me it's either progressive change, look for new things, or keep things the way they were," he said.
"The way there were in 1950," Morris said.