With just one day left before Election Day, Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar has some words for voters.
"Please take your right to vote seriously," Salazar writes in a public letter. " … The voters who participate have the ability to decide what direction the community will take for the benefit of its people."
Several factors make tomorrow's election different from City Council elections of the past. To start, this year is the first year that the election is being held in November. The change is the result of the 2018 Local Election Act, to increase voter turnout.
But did potential voters get the message?
"I'm afraid the turnout is going to be unusually low," said Mayor Alan Webber at a press conference Friday.
The secretary of state reported Monday afternoon that 5,681 early voting ballots had been cast as "early voting" in the county for the 2019 election. For comparison, 7,055 people voted early in the March 2018 municipal election, which included the mayoral race.
This cycle's City Council races are the most high-profile, and voters in only two districts have a choice of candidates. Webber said, "we have a lot of uncontested races, and that really dampens enthusiasm."
District 1 Councilor Renee Villarreal and District 3 Councilor Chris Rivera are both uncontested to hold their current seats on the council. Municipal Court Judge Virginia Vigil also faces no opposition.
In City Council District 2, voters have a choice between two contestants for the open seat—Michael Garcia and Alysia Lori Abbott. In District 4, voters will find three candidates on the ballot—Xavier Anderson, Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez and Greg Scargall.
Local voters are also casting ballots for the Santa Fe Public School Board, the Santa Fe Community College Board and the municipal judge. Sample ballots can be found by entering your registration info at the Secretary of State Voter Services website.
With the change to consolidated local elections, the Santa Fe County Clerk's office is now responsible for all election proceedings, including staffing the polls and sending results to the secretary of state.
County Clerk Geraldine Salazar says it's been a race to get things prepared for the deadline, but she hopes the process will go smoothly on Election Day. The county hired approximately 200 poll workers and required them to attend extra training sessions in October on new voting machines.
Rather than voting at precinct locations like in the past, any voter can vote at any county convenience center.
Salazar has made at least one election-night change that could speed up reporting. Delays affected the 2018 election, in which results weren't available from the city clerk until just before midnight.
This year, presiding judges at the voting convenience centers inside the city limits will bring in the cards with the vote tallies after the polls close. But at convenience centers further north and south in the county, Salazar says her office will be sending out runners and tech staff to pick up the cards after polls close at 7 pm.
"If any of the city's presiding judges are slower, I'll send my staff out," Salazar says. "We want to improve reporting out."
Usually, the presiding judges at the rural voting stations would have to come into Santa Fe to bring in their cards themselves. But Salazar says sending staff out to picks up those results and bring them back to the clerk's office as soon as possible will "speed up the process" to get results as soon as possible.
Unofficial election night totals will be available on the website of the secretary of state. Salazar says she cannot predict when exactly final results will be available, but her office will work to get them out "as soon as possible."
District 4 is the only city council district to which ranked-choice voting will apply this year. Voters will rank the candidates on the ballot in terms of first, second and last choice. The candidate who receives the least number of votes will be eliminated, and their votes will be redistributed to the second choice on voters ballots.