Hundreds of people packed the entryway at the Wyoming Center before 7 a.m. Tuesday as they waited for polls to open, an indication of the interest in the election.
Some 5,000 people already had voted early via absentee ballots.
Chris Rhode, 33, made his way to the polls before going to work in the morning. As he sipped coffee and waited in line behind a string of other voters who needed to register, he mulled his choices.
“It’s probably the most important election for my generation,” he said. “The Supreme Court justices, the deficit, the health-care bill.”
Many important issues in Rhode’s future hinge on the presidential election, he said.
He voted for the first time four years ago, contributing to the 6,000 new voters in Campbell County who registered for that election. And because he hasn’t voted since, Rhode had to re-register at the poll for the 2012 election.
In addition, dozens of other voters who hadn’t voted before registered at the large U-shaped table at the entrance to the Wyoming Center.
It is a phenomenon that County Clerk Susan Saunders has watched for the past two presidential elections.
“Until four years ago, we didn’t have it like this,” she said. “We have more than 5,000 absentee voters this year.”
The 30-year-veteran election worker has watched as the fervor created by recent presidential elections has driven new voters to register. In 2008, for instance, more than 6,000 new voters registered for that election.
And 2012 is on track to top that, she said.
Saunders stood inside the Wyoming Center on Tuesday morning watching a glut of voters register before voting, and she predicted the flow of new people would be steady all day.
In addition, early voters swarmed into the Campbell County Courthouse on Monday.
Poll worker Jean Roberts was one of those. But she left shortly after seeing, that the line snaked through the lobby of the building and almost to the front doors.
“I thought, ‘well, I could vote and get it done,’” she said. “But the line was so long I decided to wait.”
The crowd included Tanner Lynde, who was dressed up in full camouflage.
Shortly after he voted, Lynde was leaving for an elk hunt. Tuesday, he would be in the Big Horn Mountains, far from Cam-plex where he usually votes. Although the hunt was a spur-of-the-moment decision, Lynde made sure he didn’t leave without casting a ballot. As a regular voter, he said he normally votes on Election Day. There was a line outside the elections office, but he said it wasn’t as long as what he has encountered at Cam-plex.
Two friends, Kaycee Schriber and Dacia Lyman, voted for the first time. Lyman said Schriber had talked her into it.
The two, both 18, go to college in Billings, Mont., and Sheridan and were in town after a friend’s funeral service. Tuesday, they would be driving back to school. If not for the visit, they guessed they wouldn’t have been voting. Both said the experience wasn’t quite as dramatic as they were hoping for.
It looked a bit dull, Schriber said. The next time, they thought they would hit the polls for the extra excitement.
“We’re going to go all out,” Schriber said.
Roberts and her two fellow poll workers at precinct 9-11, Dorothy Cottrell and Nola Wallace, would spend 14 hours at the polls Tuesday taking care of those lines of people.
The hundreds of voters who streamed into the Wyoming Center before 8 a.m. Tuesday may be a foreshadowing of the rest of the day.
News Record writer Tom Fagin contributed to this report.