It was not enough to show up at Holy Name Parish Hall in West Roxbury.
First, voters had to pick their way through a gauntlet of volunteers pushing campaign leaflets, six candidates asking for votes, union nurses gathering petition signatures, and a mother stumping for her son for mayor.
Some voters said they felt intimidated by the onslaught of last-minute lobbying.
“I prefer just to go in, and put in my time,” said Crystal Tiala, a drama professor at Boston College, as she emerged from the teeming political bazaar. “Oh, look, here comes somebody else with a petition,” she said.
But even those who felt overwhelmed by the crush of campaigners acknowledged that they were participating in a pivotal moment in the city’s history.
Some said they were exhilarated at the prospect of helping to elect Boston’s first new leader in 20 years. Others expressed anxiety about the end of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s reign. And with 12 candidates running for mayor and 39 for City Council, many said they were simply flummoxed by all the choices.
“I guess I finally decided on something because I made it out here!” said Janice Geary, who was voting at the Bellflower Apartments in Dorchester and said she was struggling to come up with four candidates she could support for councilor at large.
There was no scientific method for narrowing down the choices.
Husband and wife Dan and Rebecca Cassely said they did research before they arrived at the polls, and met some of the candidates who had spoken at civic association meetings or knocked on their door.
Still, Rebecca Cassely said, she had not made her final decisions for a couple of the councilor slots when she showed at the Bellflower Apartments. So she looked at the ballot and chose candidates who had an address close to where she lives. And then there were the candidates who had tossed fliers on her porch, not attached with any kind of rubber band or door hanging. They were out.
“Their fliers are always blowing around and making trash,” she said. “I don’t really like that. That definitely made me not want to vote for them.”
Maurice Baker, a Mattapan resident, said he had chosen a candidate for mayor — Charles Clemons — but was at a loss when it came to sorting through the 19 candidates running for councilor at large. “Just trying to remember who said what and when,” he said.
At polling places throughout the city, campaign workers often outnumbered voters. Turnout was a restrained 31 percent.
Outside the Curley School in Jamaica Plain, volunteers called out the names of their candidates like carnival barkers while Councilor Matt O’Malley, who was running for reelection, handed out water bottles emblazoned with his name.
Nearby, the principal tried to keep the parking lot open for traffic.
At Holy Name Parish Hall — always one of the busiest polling stations in the city — five council candidates shook hands with voters, while Daniel F. Conley asked them to support him for mayor, and Lynda Connolly asked them to back her son, mayoral candidate John Connolly.
“I like it,” said Juli Greenwood, a marketing and public relations professional from Roslindale, who was among those reveling in the civic spectacle. “Maybe every election should be this crazy.”
The sense of the city standing on the cusp of change created a feeling of excitement for many.
“We need something fresh to get out of the old habits that have been around for the last 20 years,” Baker said. “We need someone who will get folks talking, and stir the city up.”
At several polling stations in Roxbury, voters sported stickers that read, “I am voting in honor of Trayvon Martin.”
Some said they were nervous about the end of Menino’s tenure and the stability he represented.
Jamila Mitchell, who was voting at the Higginson/Lewis School in Roxbury along with her 14-month-old daughter, Azaria, said she grew up in Roxbury and believes Menino has made the neighborhood safer. But she was not certain the next mayor would continue to focus on safety in her corner of the city.
“I am kind of scared,” she said. “I remember what Roxbury used to be like.”
Now, she said, “I feel comfortable raising my daughter here.”
At the Chittick School in Mattapan, Marie Blas was also wrestling with change in City Hall.
“It was hard to choose for mayor,” she said. “We had Menino for so long, so you don’t really know the background of these people. I tried to read up on them, but it was still so confusing. There are so many candidates.”
But change was coming, even if the choices were hard to whittle down. By the end of the day, voters who had weaved through the throngs outside polling places and bubbled in their picks were ready for the results to roll in.
“People have gotten used to good old mayor Tom,” said Bob Fraser, a retired lawyer from Jamaica Plain. “Now, there’s a lot of people who want to know: what happens next?”