The end is near, and there are people holding signs on street corners as testament.

Thousands of voters will show up at 12 voting convenience centers today to cast new ranked-choice ballots for any race that has more than two candidates.

With a mayoral race that has generated more than $500,000 in campaign contributions, and four City Council seats to decide on (two of which will be ranked-choice), interest has been steadily rising. While early voting numbers lagged those of the massively publicized sugary-drink tax election, by Monday evening, more than 7,900 people had cast ballots either in person at an early voting location or by returning an absentee ballot. That's a 14.6 percent turnout; early and absentee voting approached the 16 percent mark in last May's special election.

Turnout was brisk when Joleen Youngers voted Tuesday morning. | Matt Grubs
Turnout was brisk when Joleen Youngers voted Tuesday morning. | Matt Grubs

Joleen Youngers called the process straightforward and praised the city's voter education efforts, especially through social media.

"I was expecting a long line that moved slowly with the first time we used ranked-choice voting," she says outside the voting convenience center at downtown's Montezuma Lodge. "But the city did a good job."

"It makes a lot of sense," Sawyer Sverre-Harrell tells SFR. A first-time voter at age 19, he says his parents and grandparents were somewhat apprehensive about the system. "I'm into it, though. I like it."

Sawyer Sverre-Harrell waits for the computer to record his ranked-choice ballot. | Matt Grubs
Sawyer Sverre-Harrell waits for the computer to record his ranked-choice ballot. | Matt Grubs

Mayoral candidate Peter Ives made the rounds, supporting volunteers who were holding signs at each of the dozen voting convenience centers.

"I'm the water guy, the granola bar guy and the orange slice guy," he laughs.

The District 2 city councilor has two years left in his term and will be a member of the governing body regardless of how the election turns out. To him, ranked-choice voting kept things civil, though it didn't make a difference in how he campaigned personally.

"I'm running against four people I consider to be my friends," he explains. That fact, rather than the new voting system, drove his campaign. "I think people deserve better than [vitriolic campaigning], quite frankly."

Joseph Maestas, who gave up his District 2 seat to run for mayor, was having lunch with seniors at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center after a morning of standing at polling places with volunteers.

Mayoral and council campaigns have volunteers stationed at each of 12 polling places. | Matt Grubs
Mayoral and council campaigns have volunteers stationed at each of 12 polling places. | Matt Grubs
A onetime mayor of Española, Maestas is trying to cut a pragmatic line across City Council districts as a path to victory. He was open about asking for a second-place ranking from voters and says he feels like he’s on a lot of Alan Webber and Kate Noble ballots as a second choice. But he tells SFR he needs one of them eliminated and a series of voting rounds, not just one, to have a chance.
“I’m almost banking on the Southside showing up,” he continues, adding that he was disheartened by low turnout from District 3 in early voting numbers. “I really feel like the Southside represents me and Ron Trujillo well.”

That district has half the number of registered voters as districts on the north and east side. Not only that, but they typically turn out to vote in smaller percentages.

Alan Webber, whose $311,000 in fundraising torched previous records, was also burdening himself for campaign volunteers on Tuesday.

"My daughter came in for the campaign," he tells SFR as the wind howls past his phone outside a polling place. "We have a bag of breakfast burritos and a big box of hot coffee and we're out supporting sign-carriers. … Bacon and green or egg and red."

Webber, too, felt voters were engaged throughout the campaign. In part, he thinks that's because the discourse was civil and candidates were focused on listening.

"As an individual, what campaigns are all about are the people you met and the voices you heard on the campaign trail. You keep those forever," he says.

Like Maestas, he spent time thinking about the ranked-choice strategy, though he's less willing to share it: "I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you." In general, he says he tried not to make too many changes to his campaign and focused on running a race with which he felt comfortable.

Polls close at 7 pm tonight and SFR will have full coverage until returns are in.