Early voting in CD1 race is skewing Democratic

First Congressional District candidates, from top left: Melanie Stansbury, Aubrey Dunn, Mark Moores and Chris Manning. (Courtesy photos)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – With expanded early voting underway for a vacant Albuquerque-area congressional seat, registered Democrats are outvoting Republicans in the district by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.

And while registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 1st Congressional District, which has increasingly trended blue in recent election cycles, they have outvoted GOP voters by a wider margin than voting registration records would suggest.

Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said the early voting trends for the June 1 special election are good news for Democrats’ hopes of keeping the seat previously held by Deb Haaland, who resigned in March after being confirmed as U.S. interior secretary.

There are four candidates on the special election ballot – Democrat Melanie Stansbury, Republican Mark Moores, Libertarian Chris Manning and independent Aubrey Dunn.

“Democrats are voting at a higher rate than their proportions, and Republicans and independents are voting at a lower rate than their proportions,” said Sanderoff, who is the president of Research & Polling Inc.

“There are a lot more Democrats than Republicans in this district, so Republicans have to vote at a higher rate to offset that numerical advantage,” he added.

Sanderoff also pointed out that Democrats’ early voting advantage could be partly because they are more likely than Republicans to vote by absentee ballot – a trend related to the pandemic that emerged during the 2020 election cycle.

And he said voter turnout in the race has been low overall – with only about 4% of registered voters having voted in the race so far.

As of early Monday, 11,892 registered Democrats had voted either in person or absentee for the open 1st Congressional District seat – or 64.3% of the 18,508 total votes cast, according to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office.

Meanwhile, 4,471 registered Republicans had voted in the race – or 24.2% of those who have voted – along with 1,989 independents and a smaller number of registered Libertarians and those affiliated with minor political parties.

Registered Democrats account for over two-thirds of the more than 11,000 voters who have cast absentee ballots.

As of Monday, 24,680 voters had requested absentee ballots. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday.

In terms of voter registration, there were roughly 458,000 voters as of April 30 in the district, which covers most of Albuquerque, all of Torrance County and small swaths of surrounding areas, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Of that total, Democrats made up 47% of registered voters and Republicans 28%. Most of the remaining voters were independents, or those who decline to state a party affiliation.

While not all voters affiliated with a political party vote for their party’s nominee, Democrats’ early advantage in voter turnout could be due to both the absentee voting edge and to more enthusiasm among Democratic voters, Sanderoff said.

New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District was long considered a swing district, but a Republican has not won in the district since Heather Wilson was elected to her final term in 2006.

Since then, the seat has been held by three Democrats – Martin Heinrich, who is now a U.S. senator; Michelle Lujan Grisham, now governor; and Haaland.

But Republicans have expressed optimism that the rare election to fill a vacant seat could open the door to an upset that would reduce Democrats’ already narrow majority in the U.S. House.

Whoever wins election to the 1st Congressional District seat will serve a shorter term than usual, as the seat will also be up for election during the 2022 election cycle.

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