The nation may be split down the middle after Tuesday's presidential election, but the Vineyard was anything but divided when it came to casting ballots for Democrats.

Voters on Martha's Vineyard came out in droves Tuesday, and by margins as wide as three to one, they threw their support behind Sen. John Kerry, the unsuccessful presidential contender, and sent incumbent Democrats back to the Massachusetts Legislature in the face of Republican challenges.

More than 80 per cent of the registered voters in Dukes County voted in the election - 9,991 voters out of the 12,446 registered. By 7 a.m., cars filled every available space in the parking lot at American Legion Hall Post 257, the Tisbury town polling place.

"They all come out of the woodwork for these elections," said Oak Bluffs town clerk Deborah Ratcliff. "People who haven't voted in four years are all there, and they were upbeat and very hopeful."

The pace continued throughout the day at polls across the Island, as overcast skies gave way to heavy raindrops, then broke clear with sun before closing over again, an unpredictable dance that seemed to reflect the high expectations and presage the bitter disappointments felt by so much of the Vineyard electorate.

Seventy-two per cent of voters on the Island and in Gosnold put their marks beside Senator Kerry's name. Just 25 per cent here voted for President George W. Bush, who won a second term this week. Support for the senator from the commonwealth clearly outpaced that of voters in the rest of the state, who cast 62 per cent of their votes for Mr. Kerry and 37 per cent for President Bush.

Elsewhere on the ballot, the Vineyard rallied behind Cape and Islands Sen. Robert O'Leary, who easily withstood a well-funded campaign by Republicans to unseat him.

Island voters also remained loyal to State Rep. Eric T. Turkington, giving 63 per cent of their votes to the Falmouth Democrat despite the fact that a Vineyarder was the challenger. James Powell, the Vineyard high school Spanish teacher and West Tisbury Republican, came away with 33 per cent of the Island votes.

In other local races, incumbent Dukes County commissioners also won re-election Tuesday, successfully fending off a challenge from George Balco, a Republican and Vineyard Haven finance committee member.

In a special town election in West Tisbury, voters ended years of debate over efforts to renovate their historic town hall, approving a $3.7 million restoration project in a Proposition 2 1/2 override election.

Beyond all the tallies and percentages, Tuesday's election evoked no shortage of reaction, both on the local and national fronts.

"My feeling is it's a sad day for the country," said West Tisbury political activist Richard Knabel, who traveled to Ohio and New Hampshire to campaign for Mr. Kerry. "Anyone who doesn't recognize we have a cultural civil war is denying reality. The question is where does it take us? What does it take to restore balance?"

"I'm glad it's all over," said Duncan MacDonald, a former Dukes County administrator and radio broadcaster who supported both President Bush and Mr. Powell in this week's election. "I'm a bit prejudiced because I'm a Texan. People who said they hated George W. Bush, it's terrible."

Senator O'Leary picked up the theme of a nation torn apart by this election.

"This country is more polarized than I've ever seen in my life," he said. "We're not talking the same language anymore. Democrats are talking foreign policy and our alliances and traditional economic issues. Republicans are talking about families and values and gay marriage."

The Kerry campaign effort, he said, simply didn't engage in this other discussion.

"It's interesting how much the President invokes God in his speeches. I find it a bit disturbing but it's resonating with giant chunks of America," Senator O'Leary said.

If disappointed Democrats were looking for solace, they found it in the state election results from campaigns run by Mr. O'Leary and Mr. Turkington.

The Cape and Islands senator won a third term this week, victorious in all 20 towns in his district. Total vote count for Mr. O'Leary was 55,016. His challenger, a Republican pediatrician-turned mutual fund investor, Dr. Gail Lese, netted 32,290 votes.

In Dukes County alone, Senator O'Leary pulled in a whopping 70 per cent of the votes, compared to just 20 per cent for Dr. Lese and three per cent for Independent candidate Luiz Gonzaga - hardly the results Republicans were banking on.

By Labor Day, the state GOP and Dr. Lese had raised more than $180,000, triple what Senator O'Leary had amassed at that point in his campaign. The Cape Cod Times reported last week that the race had set a record as the most expensive in the state with combined spending exceeding $400,000.

Dr. Lese was one of the more than 100 candidates recruited by Gov. Mitt Romney to unseat Democrats in the Legislature. The governor's plan failed miserably. Not one of the Republican candidates succeeded, despite the money invested by the GOP.

"They went out and spent $3 million to do it, and now the governor has egg all over his face," said Mr. Turkington.

The upshot - with Democrats retaining control of both chambers in the state house - could be a weakened governorship.

"Next year, a lot of us are feeling that there will be less interest in his agenda," said Mr. Turkington, who won a ninth term this week. "We'll do our own things, and they may not be things he wants to do."

Strategically, in Mr. Turkington's view, Governor Romney's attempt to veto-proof the state Legislature was simply ill-timed.

"The Kerry tide raised all the boats," said the Falmouth Democrat. "This was not a good year for them to try to do that."

Even Mr. Powell conceded that with Senator Kerry's name on Tuesday's ballot, the Democratic turnout was sizable. But Mr. Powell, who mustered 7,011 votes across the two Islands and into Falmouth, was critical of the partisanship.

"There was anti-Bush bias," he said. "Instead of people looking at the issues and the man, they just voted the party."

Mr. Powell quickly shifted his comments to more optimistic territory. "We ran a good, clean, issues-oriented campaign, a gentlemanly campaign," he said.

Back on the Cape, Dr. Lese also struck a conciliatory tone, thanking voters who supported her candidacy and telling the Gazette that she will now devote her time to an after school program she started at Barnstable High School.

Mr. O'Leary was unflinching in his attack on the kind of campaign that Dr. Lese mounted against him. "It had a cookie-cutter quality to it, and a lot of it was negative," he said. "In the end, people just didn't buy it."

Tuesday's vote sends two friends back to Boston to represent the Vineyard.

"Eric, he's the dean of the delegation. He's the smartest guy in the group," said Senator O'Leary.

"I'm thrilled to see the vote he got," returned Mr. Turkington of his senatorial colleague. "Everyone was saying it was the number one targeted seat and the one that would be lost."

Inside politics aside, the democratic process that unfolded Tuesday drew not just participants but also spectators and even cheerleaders.

Courtney Jew, working the counter at Biga Bakery in West Tisbury, wore a terry cloth wristband with the word VOTE printed on it. Across the street at the polls, Rez Williams was part of a cadre of Democrats, tracking who voted and making sure any stragglers left at the end of the day were contacted and offered a ride.

Then there was Richard Goodell, a fifth-grade teacher from the West Tisbury School, who brought students over to observe the process.

"We want to put it in their heads what it's like to go to the polls so when they're 18, they'll do it," said Mr. Goodell.

As for the results of the mock election, held Tuesday in the third through fifth grades, it was even more of a landslide for Senator Kerry.

"It was 83 per cent in favor of Kerry and 16 per cent for Bush," said Mr. Goodell. "It's a strongly Democratic neighborhood here."