Nearly half a million people.
That's how many cast ballots across New Mexico during the early voting period for the 2018 general election, according to a report issued Sunday by the Secretary of State's Office.
The 430,796 ballots represent the largest number of early voters the state has ever recorded.
The early report on early voters shows they make up 35 percent of the state's more than 1.2 million registered voters. Others who requested absentee ballots by mail can still get them to county clerks' offices by the close of business Tuesday, when voting centers will be open from 7 am to 7 pm.
"Early voting around the country this year has produced record-breaking results, and New Mexico is no exception," said Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver in a statement. "A healthy democracy requires healthy voter participation, and with over 430,000 New Mexicans having already voted this year, it's clear that our democracy is alive and well."
In 2010, the last year with an open gubernatorial seat election, early and absentee voters made up nearly half of total votes cast: 297,768 of 607,700, about 49 percent. If that trend holds, the number of total votes in the 2018 election is on pace to surpass 800,000.
The office expects to issue voter turnout reports three times during Election Day, including a morning, mid-day and afternoon report. Office spokesman Alex Curtas says the frequent updates are part of Toulouse Oliver's larger strategy to help voters feel empowered.
"When people feel confident in the election system, they are more likely to vote," Curtas tells SFR. "And the more people who vote, the better electorate we have and the better representation we have. It's all kind of part of getting more electoral participation and getting people feeling like they are a part of the process, and they understand what is going on."
Speaker of the House Brian Egolf tells SFR that his Democratic Party analysis so far isn't conclusive about whether the early voting trend will mean a net increase of voters.
"There's a big debate," he says, "Is this displacement or is this increasing the electorate.:"
Most voters who have cast early ballots are dependable mid-term voters. "We're not seeing a lot of first time voters" in the early records, he says, noting that about 3 percent of early votes are from voters ages 18-24. It's possible that many of voters in that demographic bracket are be waiting for the Election Day experience.
Get out the vote efforts for candidates and parties are underway, including Santa Fe County democrats who say they'll give rides to those who call 505-467-8514. Santa Fe Trails buses are free for the day, and trip planners can help new riders figure out stops and routes; call 505-955-2001 or visit TakeTheTrails.com.