Voting from early morning into the afternoon was going smoothly Tuesday with more than 41,000 votes cast by 5 p.m. at the 69 voter convenience centers in Bernalillo County, said Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office.
Wait times at polling places around the city and county appeared to be no more than five minutes, he said.
Early in the morning, the county clerk’s website was responding slowly and was shut down for a short time as internet technicians worked to resolve the problem, he said.
For this primary election there were a considerable number of early votes cast, just more than 48,100, about double of what was cast in both the 2012 and 2014 elections.
As of 5:30 p.m., there were no reports of problems at any Bernalillo County polling site, Keefe said, though he acknowledged that there were about 10 incidences in which voters claimed to have changed their party affiliation by the May 10 deadline and when they went to cast a ballot were told that they were still registered according to their previous affiliation.
In nearly all the cases, Keefe said, the problem was that the voter’s updated registration form was not filed by the deadline, or the voter forgot to enter a party in the appropriate space on the form, or the voter checked the “no party” box to identify as an independent or third party voter.
Because New Mexico is a closed primary state, only Democrats or Republicans can vote in primary elections, he said.
The Sandoval County Bureau of Elections also reported that polling places were operating smoothly with short wait times to cast a ballot. In early voting, 10,086 ballots had been cast throughout Sandoval County, an election spokeswoman said.
Only one glitch was reported in Rio Rancho, and that was because a polling place had been moved from Rio Rancho High School to the Loma Colorado Library, less than half a mile north on Loma Colorado Drive. “The website for the Sandoval County Clerk’s Office still listed the voting site as the high school,” said presiding election judge Eric Maddy. “We notified them and they said they were going to post a sign at the high school directing people over here.”
As of 5 p.m., the Sandoval County Clerk’s website still listed Rio Rancho High School as a voting site, and did not list the Loma Colorado library. A caveat at the bottom of the list said “Polling locations are subject to change.”
However, Nichole Lehmeier, the Bureau of Elections supervisor for Sandoval County said that when the oversight was reported in the morning, signs were immediately posted at Rio Rancho High School directing people down the block to the library.
Voting was steady at the library, with more than 75 people casting ballots by 10:30 a,m., and the pace was picking up, Maddy said.
Likewise, over at the Esther Bone Memorial Library off Southern Blvd., in Rio Rancho, voting was also consistent, with about 150 people casting ballots by 10:30 a.m.
Rio Rancho voter Jan Parr said she came to vote because this election is “extremely important and things need to be fixed.”
Unfortunately, that might not happen, she noted. “Any choice for voters is a good thing, but 90 percent of the ballot was people running unopposed. That’s not a choice. That’s just pathetic.”
Dave Henry, another Rio Rancho voter, called the election “very confusing” and said he didn’t like the choices. “I’m voting for the the lesser of the evils,” though he didn’t share who he was voting for.
“I’m not happy with career politicians particularly in the U.S. Congress,” he said. “If there were term limits, I’d be happy. If they had to buy their health insurance from the same places I do, then I’d be much happier. I’m just tired of elitism and that’s why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are so popular.”
Poll workers at the Petroglyph Plaza voting site on Golf Course Road NW, said they’ve been busy since opening, but wait times have been no longer than five minutes.
Among those voting were Sabrina Alderete and her brother, Gino Alderete.
“I usually vote early but I ended up putting it off and time just got a away,” said Gino, who added that he was glad that he could be in and out so quickly.
The siblings didn’t have a plan for voting until they drove by the shopping center and saw the sign to “vote here.”
“I thought I had to vote in my individual district but I wasn’t sure,” said Sabrina. “So I called 311 and got the number for the County Clerk’s Office, which had an automated message that said you could vote at any of the voting locations in the county. So here we are.”
At Rio Grande High School in the South Valley, more than 300 people had voted by 12:30 p.m.
“It started out slow and steadily got busier,” said presiding judge Karl Garcia. “There have been no problems and people have been in and out in just minutes.”
Despite the constant stream of people, the large space of the high school gymnasium may have contributed to the impression that voter turnout was less than impressive, said voter Danny Pacheco.
“I would have hoped more people got out to vote, but the South Valley is always a little on the light side for voter turnout. Early voting was very heavy, I understand, so that may have something to do with it.”
Bahati Ansari also said she thought voter turnout at the Rio Grande High School site was a bit on the thin side. Another concern, she said, was the number of people on the ballot who were running unopposed.
“I think people just don’t want to fool around with the process or they didn’t have the money needed to run for public office,” she said. “So we wind up with people on the ballot whose names we don’t recognize — people who appear a little while before the election and who you probably won’t hear from after the election. They should be out more in the community, we should know who they are and what they stand for. They need to earn my vote.”
Voter turnout at the Central Mercado on San Pedro SE, in the International District was higher than normal for a primary election, said presiding judge Kevin McKeown. He has worked a number of elections in the past and said this primary appears to be attracting a lot of voters “who never voted before or hadn’t voted in years,” largely because the Democratic presidential race has been so hotly contested.
In addition, he said, the Southeast Heights polling site this year has seen more Native American voters and more veterans, as well as more people who “speak exclusively Spanish and speak exclusively Vietnamese” than in past elections.
One voter, who identified herself only as Crystal, said she was glad that she could vote quickly during her lunch break from work.
“I looked online at the list for voting places, and this site had a green dot, meaning that the wait time was 15 minutes or less.”
Of the primary election polling places surveyed, the only “waiting lines” observed were at La Cueva High School in the far Northeast Heights. Those intermittent lines were short, with no more than a dozen people waiting to sign in and get a ballot, and they did not wait longer than 15 minutes, according to poll workers.
As of about 4 p.m., more than 800 people had cast a ballot, and like other voting sites there were no problems to report at La Cueva.
“It was very fast. At this time of the day I figured it wouldn’t be so bad,” said voter Whitney Lacy as she left La Cueva late in the afternoon.
“I am a voter, I love coming out on election day to vote. It makes me feel like I’m contributing to society. People who don’t vote can’t complain.”
Lacy, like other voters, noticed the large number of people on the ballot who were running in uncontested races. “I don’t mind it. I guess they must be doing a good job, otherwise people would challenge them.”
Phoebe Saltzstein isn’t sure about that, and in a democratic system that emphasizes choice it just doesn’t seem right, she said. “I didn’t even fill in the bubbles on the ballot for those races. They’re going to win in the primary anyway.”
— See below for a list of Albuquerque-area polling places, and check back for updates and election results throughout the day.