Early voting turnout may have lagged—and final numbers for the Nov. 5 election are hours away—but the morning started briskly at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, one of the designated voting centers open to all voters, regardless of their individual precincts. Just before 8:30 am, Presiding Judge Ron Andermann said 163 people had already showed up to cast their ballots.
"This is always one of the busiest or the busiest," said Andermann, a regular poll worker, who said jokingly he does the work because he's "a glutton for punishment," and more seriously because it's a nice way to get out and "meet old friends." He wasn't expecting any challenges during the day, although he confirmed that some voters were surprised or confused by encountering ranked-choice voting in the three-way District 4 Santa Fe City Council race. He also wasn't surprised to be busy, despite this being the first year for a consolidated election at a new time. "Word gets out," he said.
This is the second election in which the city is employing ranked-choice voting—last year's mayoral election was the first—and not all voters have become sanguine about it.
"I really hate the ranked voting," District 4 voter Dena Hunt said on her way out of the county fairgrounds building. She also said she felt there was confusion about whether her vote would count if she only chose one candidate in District 4's three-way race (voters who don't rank candidates still have their votes count, but perhaps not in later rounds if the top candidate is eliminated).
Hunt said she did end up ranking the district's three candidates, choosing Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez first, Xavier Anderson second and Gregory Scargall third. Scargall had initially been her first choice, she said because "I think he was probably more what I would be aligned to" but shifted her choice "after I read that he has some issues."
Scargall has twice faced domestic violence allegations, and last month had a domestic violence welfare check by police at his home. Scargall has denied the allegations.
Cassutt-Sanchez also won the top pick for District 4 voter Jodi McGinnis Porter. "I think it's time they have more women in office," McGinnis Porter said. "Women need and deserve equal rights and representation in our laws." Porter, who lives near the county fairgrounds, said streets, safety and neighborhood watch support are important issues for her in her district, noting police had recently been called to her "very quiet neighborhood" because a man had left needles and a laptop between two residential homes.
Scargall likely remained the top pick for District 3 voter Chris Diestler, who said, on his way in to vote, that he was "probably" going to pick him.
"Everybody's got problems in their past and I don't think we should judge people on that," Diestler said. "I think whatever their current state is, whatever they're wanting to do moving forward, is what we should be thinking about."
Anderson was the only District 4 candidate in obvious view first thing in the morning at the fairgrounds, parked at the entryway waving at incoming voters. Anderson also has a history of unprosecuted domestic violence on his record, which he previously told SFR took place during an "ugly" divorce.
At the fairgrounds, Anderson spoke positively of his experience on the campaign trail, noting that his campaign had knocked on 6,500 doors. He said the high point of the campaign—his first—had been: "Having people just show all the different kinds of support in many different ways, and that was going out campaigning with me; that was people just being great at the door and really wanting to talk about the issues; and bumping into family every once in a while." Public safety, infrastructure and equity were all concerns he heard about from voters, he said.
Now, "We ran our race and we are going to be happy with the outcome no matter what because we talked about the issues."
Anderson won the first-place pick from District 4 voter Anai Reyes, who said she was swayed by former Santa Fe City Councilor Bill Dimas' endorsement of him. "I think [Dimas is] a decent person who cares for Santa Fe County and the people," she said.
Both Reyes and District 3 voter Jerry Trujillo said they were prepared to make choices in all the races on the ballot, including those for Santa Fe Public Schools board and the Santa Fe Community College Governing Board.
"Attendance is down at colleges across the nation," Trujillo said of the latter race. "Brick and mortar places seem to be struggling. We passed a bond not too long ago to build more buildings at our school, so I think it's important for financial stability and the future of the college to keep that stability there." Last year, SFCC passed a $17 million bond to build and or renovate numerous facilities. The governing board has two contested seats in today's election: Ruth H Howes and Jody M Pugh in position 1; Miguel A Acosta, David W Dannenberg and Pier Quintana in position 5.
Santa Fe Public Schools' board election was top of mind for lawyer Geno Zamora, a former city and schools attorney who continues to do work for numerous school districts. Zamora had voted early, but was at the fairgrounds collecting signatures for nominating petitions for state Supreme Court candidates Shannon Bacon and David Thomson, both Democrats were appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at the beginning of the year, and will have to stand for one partisan election.
Zamora wouldn't reveal who he voted for in the nonpartisan schools election, but stressed the importance of the positions. "The governance of Santa Fe Public Schools is always important," he said. "You want people who are engaged, who know the issues. I think District 2 is very lucky to have two highly qualified candidates for school board."
The public schools have two contested races in today's election: incumbent Steven J Carrillo and Carmen Linda Gonzales in District 1; John L Triolo and Sarah Koch Boses in District 2.
Voting at El Camino Real Academy was much quieter first thing in the morning: Presiding Judge Annabelle Romero said only nine people had voted by the time this reporter showed up at 7:30 am to cast a ballot. But some, she said, had been waiting outside when she opened.
One early voter, Rod Lambert, declined to say who he had chosen in the District 4 race, but stressed the importance of turning out to cast his ballot.
"I vote in every election," Lambert said. "I think City Council is always really important. I think some people think there's only one or two local races they care about and the rest don't matter, but politics and change happen on this level and it's important to vote no matter what."