Expanded early voting begins in NM - Albuquerque Journal

Expanded early voting begins in NM

Jonathan Martinez sets up tabulator machines and an absentee ballot drop box Friday at the Max Coll Corridor Community Center. He and others in the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office are setting up early-voting locations around the county. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico will sharply expand early voting locations Saturday as voters head into the final two weeks of a contentious primary election season.

Republicans are turning out at the highest rate so far – with 5,979 votes cast, or about 1.4% of their registered voters, according to a Journal analysis of data released Friday.

Republicans also took advantage of same-day voter registration in greater numbers than other parties. They account for 51% of the same-day registrations, a process that allows people who are eligible to vote to register and immediately cast a ballot at a polling site.

At the top of the ticket, Republicans are choosing among five candidates to run against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this fall. A Libertarian will also be on the ballot.

The contested races on the Democratic side include state attorney general, treasurer and auditor – none of which feature an incumbent.

Voters are also choosing nominees for county, legislative and other offices.

Election administrators say they’re hopeful Saturday’s expansion of in-person voting sites will accelerate turnout.

Cindy Benavidez of Santa Fe votes in person Thursday at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office during the early voting portion of the state primaries. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

In Bernalillo County, for example, 20 sites are set to open. They will be in operation generally from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“I hope we get a lot of people coming in,” Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover said Friday.

She said the election has been problem-free so far, though she’s still hoping for some extra election workers in case they’re needed. Call 505-243-VOTE to learn about serving.

“Knock on wood, we’ve had a really smooth ride so far,” Stover said.

Throughout the state, 12,778 votes have been cast either absentee or in-person at clerk’s offices, according to data released Friday by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The ballots represent 1.2% turnout so far.

About 1.4% of registered Republicans have cast ballots so far, 1.1% of Democrats and 0.4% of Libertarians.

A few hundred voters – 378 all told – have taken advantage of the same-day registration system.

The figures include new registrations and independents who can change their affiliation at the polls.

New Mexico’s primary elections are closed, meaning only a registered Democrat can vote in the Democratic primary. But a new state law allows independent or minor party voters to change affiliation when they show up at a polling location and cast a ballot with a major party.

Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats, however, can’t change their registration to vote in another party’s races.

The launch of early voting comes as massive wildfires burn in parts of the state, especially northern New Mexico.

State election officials are encouraging voters to cast a ballot at an early-voting site or to request an absentee ballot, which can be sent to wherever someone is now residing, even if they’ve left the state because of the fires.

In Sandoval County, the clerk’s office said it is monitoring the fires and preparing to make adjustments if needed.

Alyssa Montoya, working for the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office, helps set up an early-voting location Friday at the Max Coll Corridor Community Center. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Joey Dominguez, chief deputy county clerk in Sandoval County, said the clerk’s office is also taking new steps to promote confidence in the election results, including remote monitoring of election sites and revised chain-of-custody procedures for ballots.

Employees are also eager to open up new sites Saturday to give voters more options for casting their ballots.

“Election geeks are pretty excited for tomorrow,” Dominguez said.

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