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A Laramie County resident goes to cast their vote Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at the Storey Gym polling location. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Laramie County only opened seven polling locations across the county, including in Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – A lot was at stake in the 2020 election, and Laramie County voters acted accordingly. According to County Clerk Debra Lee, voter participation was the highest it’s been since the presidential election in 2008.

“I’m just amazed at the voter turnout,” Lee said. “When you have so many people voting early and absentee, you’re thinking, ‘Well, how many are left to actually show up at the polls?’ And there were a lot.”

2020 has been an unprecedented year in a number of ways, including the number of early and absentee voters:

About 14,000 residents cast their votes early and in person, while another 13,000 sent in their absentee ballots.

About 18,000 residents cast their votes on Election Day.

The general election followed suit with the primary, which was the first time early and absentee votes outweighed the number of Election Day voters in Laramie County.

“Roughly 30% of voters who cast ballots voted early, in-person, and then roughly 30% voted by absentee ballot,” Lee said.

In previous general elections, the number of requested absentee ballots averaged around 2,800. Totaling all the ballots, 45,119 votes were cast this year, compared to 32,856 in 2018 and 41,353 in 2016.

In addition to the stark number of early and absentee voters, Laramie County saw a significant increase in voter registration. More than 4,700 residents registered to vote by the end of early voting, and an additional 6,000 registered in person on Election Day.

Lee said the clerk’s office is still working on the final election summary, which outlines the level of voter participation. With the new registrations, Lee expects the participation rate for registered voters to be over 100%.

“I’m sure it’s going to be over 100%, but I don’t know how far over,” Lee said.

With the registrations completed during the early voting period – from Sept. 18 to Nov. 2 – Lee’s office analyzed the data and found that this year’s election drew more young people and unaffiliated voters to the polls.

During the early voting period, the number of registered voters in the 18- to 24-year-old age range increased by 37%, and the number in the 25- to 34- year-old age range increased by 28%.

The number of registered Democrats and Republicans also increased 11% and 10%, respectively, but the largest increase was seen with unaffiliated voters, which saw an increase of almost 31%.

On Tuesday, more than 100 volunteers mobilized to register voters, check them in and get their votes cast. Some of Lee’s employees in the clerk’s office had to step up and help out, but at the end of the day, Lee said the outcome at the polls was a huge relief.

“It went very, very well,” she said.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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