Early voting off to a roaring start in Gwinnett

Hundreds of people lined up outside the Gwinnett County elections office Monday morning for the first day of early voting. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

Hundreds of people lined up outside the Gwinnett County elections office Monday morning for the first day of early voting. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

Deno Stephens is a character.

The 65-year-old cop and Marine veteran gave a reporter her "phone number" Monday morning as she waited in line at the Gwinnett County elections office. She boasted about her flowing blonde locks and sinewy 5-foot-6 frame (she has neither), and took input from friends before describing her "measurements" in further detail.

Then she got serious.

Susan B. Anthony was beaten and bloodied for her right, as a woman, to vote, Stephens said. And the "current mayhem" in presidential politics drove her to show up Monday, Georgia's first day of early voting.

"It's time for a female," the Snellville resident said, "and Trump's a damn bully."

By the time Gwinnett County's Lawrenceville elections office opened for voting at 8 a.m. Monday, well over 100 people had joined the queue outside. By 8:30 a.m., the crowd had eclipsed 400, elections director Lynn Ledford estimated.

The quiet, murmuring mass of soon-to-be voters snaked deep into the parking lot. Nearly 1,200 Gwinnettians had voted by late afternoon.

"We were expecting a crowd," Ledford said, "but we were not expecting this."

While there are also a handful of high-interest local races on the ballot, including Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District and two Gwinnett County commission seats, folks like Stephens showed up to go ahead and cast their vote in the contentious presidential race pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.

Trump supporter Raymond Miller, a Lawrenceville resident, said he'd made his mind up so there was no point in waiting.

When asked why he chose Trump, Miller said, "the values that the Republicans actually stand for, conservatism, and making our country great again, and not giving everything away."

Many voters asked Monday morning, however, balked at revealing their presidential choices and said they had just hoped to avoid the lines on Nov. 8 — a mission that ended up being somewhat ill-fated.

By the afternoon, waits were approaching four or five hours. Bottled water was being passed out to those in line.

Buddy Brownlee of Grayson and Ed Palisoc of Norcross showed up around 7:30 a.m. Monday. An hour later, they were still waiting.

"I just wanted to get it over with because I was going out of town," Brownlee said. "I'm very surprised [by the crowd]."

Said Palisoc: "It's nice to see everyone pretty congenial too. I guess that's the reality of what's going on — not everyone's overly contentious like it seems."

Early voting continues at the Gwinnett County elections office, located at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville, until Nov. 4. Hours are as follows:

• Oct. 17-22: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Oct. 24-28: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Oct. 29: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Oct. 31-Nov. 4: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Seven satellite locations for early voting open on Oct. 29 and through the week of Halloween. Find more information about those locations and hours by clicking here.

Here's a look at what will be on the ballot in Gwinnett County on Nov. 8. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)