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Lower turnout in NM despite more early votes

presbynmcountySANTA FE – The huge wave of early voting in New Mexico didn’t, after all, translate into a bigger turnout in this tumultuous election year. It just meant people voted earlier.

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office indicate that 61.6 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s general election.

That’s below the turnout for the two previous presidential election years, 2012 and 2008, according to data from the secretary of state’s website.

“We had record-breaking early voting, but that was not a barometer of what was to come with the Election Day vote,” said Albuquerque pollster and political analyst Brian Sanderoff.

“Turnout was mediocre for a presidential year, most of the excitement being prior to Election Day,” he said.

According to preliminary vote canvass figures from Secretary of State Brad Winter’s office, 794,857 of the state’s 1,289,414 eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.

The turnout ranged from a high of 76.5 percent in Los Alamos County to a low of 49.4 percent in Curry County.

“We were kind of planning for it to be like ’08, but we fell short of that,” said state Elections Director Kari Fresquez.

The 2008 election, in which Democrat Barack Obama first won the White House, defeating Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, drew a voter turnout of more than 70 percent in New Mexico. That was down some, to just shy of 63 percent, for his re-election in 2012, in which he beat Republican Mitt Romney.

This year, a whopping 57 percent of New Mexicans who voted went in person to some early voting site, while 9 percent used absentee ballots and 34 percent waited until Election Day.

Sanderoff said there are several reasons for the surge in early voting this year: the excitement of the presidential race, the desire to avoid long lines on Election Day, and the fact that New Mexicans are becoming more accustomed to voting early.

That’s particularly true in urban areas, where it’s more convenient, he said.

“My family, and most people we know or talk to, are voting on a Saturday,” said Ken Ortiz, chief of staff in Secretary of State Brad Winter’s office.