MANCHESTER, N.H. (CBS/AP) — New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said he never expected to see anything like the 2008 voter turnout for the state’s first-in-the-nation primary for a long time–but this year, he says, there may be even more activity.

“I expect that we’ll exceed 500,000,” Gardner told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “I think we’ll get up into even 550,000.”

Polls were opening across New Hampshire Tuesday morning, though the exact hours varied from place to place.

State law requires polls to be open between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. Most allow voting between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., with a handful opening polls as early as 6 a.m. and about 20 remaining open until 8 p.m. And three tiny towns — Hart’s Location, Dixville and Millsfield — had permission to open their polls at midnight and close them moments later once everyone had voted.

All 9 votes in Dixville were counted early Tuesday morning. (WBZ-TV)

All 9 votes in Dixville were counted early Tuesday morning. (WBZ-TV)

Gardner said the state has a typically high turnout in presidential primaries–even higher than their mid-term elections, when New Hampshire voters elect a new governor.

“People really take this seriously, the responsibility for this,” said Gardner. “Primary Day is a huge day. We always have a high turnout. In the last presidential election, 2012, we had the highest in New England. We were the highest east of Wisconsin.”

Independent voters, officially known as “undeclared,” make up 44 percent of registered voters. They can vote in either primary, making them a key group on Tuesday.

Listen to N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner talk about the primary:

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