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Voting outpaces regular election level

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — With six days left for early voting, 622 more people had already cast votes in the municipal runoff election than in the regular election last month.

By the end of the day Thursday, the Rio Rancho Office of the City Clerk had 1,180 early ballots and 369 absentee ballots, according to City Clerk Steven Ruger’s numbers. That’s a total of 1,549.

On the corresponding day of early voting for the regular election, 629 people had voted early and 298 had turned in absentee ballots, Ruger said. So, 927 people had voted by this time in the last election.

Runoffs have historically seen lower turnout than regular elections.

Election Day is April 15 for the runoff elections between Gregg Hull and Michael Williams for mayor and Shelby Smith and Thomas Buckner for District 5 city councilor.

Early voting is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, ending this Friday, in the city clerk’s office. Applications for absentee ballots must be turned in by 5 p.m. April 11 at the clerk’s office, and absentee ballots are due by 7 p.m. April 15.

“We’re excited about the numbers, obviously, because it shows people are taking a great interest in this election,” Hull said.

He said his campaign is working tirelessly to get people to participate, and he was hoping as many people as voted in the regular election or more would come out for the runoff. Hull said he “reserved” speculation on his chances of winning.

Williams said he was glad to see people taking advantage of the opportunity to vote early. Turnout is always lower in runoff elections, he said.

“Everything’s going great, and we are working extra hard to get the vote out,” Williams said of his campaign.

Early and absentee numbers are also already ahead of the 2012 end-totals for either the regular or runoff election.

In the April 2012 city council districts 4 and 6 runoff election, 648 people voted early or absentee. For the regular election that year, 1,214 people voted early or absentee in the issue that drew the highest early/absentee turnout, a city charter amendment making a minor grammatical change.

The 2012 election didn’t involve a mayoral race.

On the other hand, this year’s numbers haven’t surpassed early and absentee voting in the 2010 regular election.

Then, 1,704 people voted early or absentee in the mayoral race, which drew the highest turnout of any race that year. In that year’s runoff, which decided only the municipal judge race, 284 people voted, according to the city website.

For the current District 5 council race, candidate Buckner was hoping for a runoff turnout greater than 12 percent. Such a low turnout doesn’t provide an accurate representation of public opinion for important issues, Buckner said.

He urged the public to vote.

“If I win, I want to win big,” Buckner said. “If I lose, I want a lot of people to say I’m not going to be elected.”

Buckner said he and his campaign staff were working hard and as if he were behind.

“I’m never confident until the night after the election,” he said.

Smith also said more people need to vote.

“Regardless of who they vote for, they need to get out and participate in electing their leaders,” he said.

Smith also said he felt good about the election and thought his campaign was going well.