Actually, turnout was slightly worse than expected—which perhaps should be no surprise, considering the leading daily's Eeyore treatment of the race.
The consequence of such low participation figures is easy to understand: People don't feel invested in their government.
As the Journal North's Jackie Jadrnak wrote over the post-election weekend:
Mayor David Coss' impressive 57.8 percent share of the vote in a three-way race, with a 27 percent voter turnout, actually represented only a thumbs-up from 16 percent of Santa Fe's 46,990 registered voters. Rebecca Wurzburger's resounding 71.9 percent of the votes cast Tuesday only constituted endorsement from 19 percent of the voters in District 2, while Councilor Chris Calvert's 57.9 percent share of the votes cast represented only 17 percent of the registered voters in District 1.
Even the unopposed Carmichael Dominguez in District 3 and Ron Trujillo in District 4 were able get their ballot squares shaded in by only 16 percent and 21 percent of registered voters in their districts, respectively.
There's a problem with analyses that blame low turnout on voter apathy or uninspiring candidates: Turnout wasn't low everywhere.
Indeed, turnout was over 60 percent in some parts of District 1, which includes many of the wealthier neighborhoods in the north hills, and saw a three-way Council race.
Demographics may play a bigger role than the dailies cared to acknowledge in their post-election analyses.
And no—"demographics" isn't just code for "race," although that's certainly a factor. Age and income appear to also play a role in who gets involved in Santa Fe politics.
For instance, the turnout in consolidated precincts 35 and 74—encompassing the College of Santa Fe—was only 17.5 percent. That is, of 1,566 registered voters in those two precincts, only 274 people cast a vote for mayor. Even fewer—209—bothered to vote for District 4 Councilor Ron Trujillo, who ran unopposed.
Precinct maps are available here at the Santa Fe County GIS page. Below are recent stats on voter registration, as well as the March 2 municipal election results.
Please, run some numbers yourself, and see what you come up with.
The fact that Mayor David Coss didn't lose a single precinct anywhere in the city—despite the low overall turnout—suggests he had a clearly superior get-out-the vote campaign to motivate that minority of voters who could be bothered with local politics. Across Cerrillos Road from the College Plaza shopping center, in precinct 34 around Salazar Elementary, Coss even managed to pull as many votes as incumbent District 3 Councilor Carmichael Dominguez.
Third-place mayoral candidate Miguel Chavez managed to tie Asenath Kepler for second place in only one precinct—that is, precinct 33, a diverse and relatively youthful neighborhood East of Baca Street that, incidentally, had apparently the lowest turnout in the city.
District 1 vote totals by consolidated precinct and registered voter totals by district.
District 2 vote totals by precinct.
District 3 vote totals by precinct.
District 4 vote totals by precinct.
Official results, all districts and candidates.
Citywide mayoral vote totals (Coss, Kepler, Chavez).
District 1 Councilor vote totals (Calvert, Simon, Nava).
District 2 Councilor vote totals (Wurzburger, Beninato).
District 3 Councilor vote totals (Dominguez).
District 4 Councilor vote totals (Trujillo).
Santa Fe County voter registration totals by political party and precinct, as of Feb. 16, 2010. Click to enlarge. (And note that voter totals in the city's consolidated precincts will not necessarily match up with the county precincts.)