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‘Big turnout’ reported at Bernalillo County voting centers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If Bernalillo County is any indication, New Mexico election day voting will be a record breaker.

As of 6:39 p.m., Tuesday, 238,344 early and election day votes were cast, representing a 61 percent voter turnout, said Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover.

When the polls closed at 7 p.m., only two sites, Rio Grande High School and Holly Plaza, still had people lined up. Those voters were brought inside the buildings and a poll worker stood at the door telling latecomers that the polls were now closed, Stover said.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver reported that early and absentee voting broke state records with more than 430,000 people casting ballots as of Saturday. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver reported that early and absentee voting broke state records with more than 430,000 people casting ballots as of Saturday. By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, a total of 571,787 people had voted — or 45.8 percent of registered voters. That compares to a 40.35 percent turnout during the 2014 midterm election.

Lisa Hurtado, the presiding judge at the Esther Bone Memorial Library voting site in Rio Rancho said that a line had formed outside even before the polls opened Tuesday at 7 a.m.

“We brought in four more voting booths because of the turnout,” she said. “We now have 18, and they’re all being used. I was a little surprised by the large turnout because of the numbers who already came out to early vote.”

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., said that among the people who voted on election day, Republicans and independents came out at a higher rate then they did in early voting. “Still, there are a lot more Democrats voting than Republicans, because there are more Democrats in the state.” Overall, Democratic candidates will receive more support from the early voters than they did from election day voters, “but that’s mitigated by the fact that more people voted early than voted on election day.”

At the polls, it was clear that Donald Trump, whose name wasn’t on any state ballots, was on the minds of many voters.

“I do believe this midterm election is more important than others,” said Will Rogers, 32, a karaoke DJ who was voting in Rio Rancho.

“The campaigning was really vitriolic. I used to be an independent, but the more I saw Republicans attacking, the more I began to lean toward the Democrats. I think the immigration issue and child separations at the border were the turning point for me. My dad was an immigrant who was born in 1944 in Germany and came to the United States in the mid 1960s.”

Rogers also called the Republican tax reform package “a joke,” and said neither he nor his small DJ business has seen any benefits. “It hasn’t helped one bit,” he said.

Over at the Petroglyph Plaza polling site on Albuquerque’s West Side, flooring installation expert, Andy Hartzog, 50, said he began to pay more attention to the political scene after listening to conservative talk radio. “Our liberty is at stake,” he said. Aside from all the other local, state and national issues, the one thing that most encourages him is the economy. “I’m seeing more work, and more work for me is more money,” he said.

Bryan Fowler, 60, an unemployed life coach, cast his ballot at Van Buren Middle School in the Southeast Heights. “We need to make America great again, and to do that we have to get Republicans in office who are ready to make a difference,” he said.

Fowler didn’t vote for any Democrats, “even if they were running unopposed,” he said. “We’re in a civil war waged with words. Where do you draw the line between free speech and hate speech? You just can’t throw those words around loosely.”

When it was pointed out to him that President Trump has from time to time been loose with words, Fowler smiled and said, “Well, God bless him for it. No one is perfect.”

Students waited in line 30 to 45 minutes to vote at the University of New Mexico Student Union Building. One of those students, Madrone Matishak, 21, who studies dance and art management, said voting is more than just her civic duty.

“We need to show that this generation does care about the future, that we do have a voice and that the general state of the country under the present administration is not normal and is not supposed to be happening.”

She specifically objected to the de-funding of Planned Parenthood and the possibility that some in Congress want to make abortions illegal, “which won’t make it go away — just make it unsafe.”

She was also put off by the “whole (Brett) Kavanaugh thing,” she said of the contentious hearing for the Supreme Court nominee. “The Republicans should have waited to fill the seat until after the midterm election because that (waiting) is what they made Obama do,” she said. “I’m just tired of people getting free passes.”

At the busy Daskalos shopping center polling place in the Northeast Heights, Jackie Martin, 66, said she was voting “for the first time in six or eight years.”

“I’m not happy with the president, so if I can help in any way I’m happy to do that,” said the retired bank teller. “I didn’t vote for a long time because I had a busy life and I didn’t care. Now, I have the time, I’m paying attention and I care.”