A steady stream of eager New Mexicans filed in and out of the El Camino Real Academy voting location in Santa Fe County late-morning today, joining thousands of others who opted for casting ballots Election Day rather than early voting.

Masked poll workers tell SFR there have been many first-time voters and few problems. Volunteers offer hand sanitizer to everyone who enters before directing them inside.

Kris Sleicher, a Santa Fe teacher who voted "straight blue," stops for a word with SFR outside after dropping off her ballot. She slams one hand against the other, car keys jangling, to emphasize why she wanted to appear in person on this day, despite a pandemic.

"It feels like a sacred day," Sleicher says. "Plus, I'm an educator, so we have today off and it just felt like it was important to do the day of. It's something I needed to do, for me to go in."

Sleicher's sentiments about the importance of voting today were echoed across the Southside by other Santa Feans who spoke with SFR at four different busy locations, including Turquoise Trail Charter School, Nina Otero Community School and the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds. The importance of voting expressed by numerous people was almost always followed by a deep worry for the future, often dependent on the outcome of the elections.

"I'm concerned for the people in this country," Sleicher says. "I'm concerned that we have not seen the fallout yet from this pandemic. We have not seen the fallout from businesses closing. I'm concerned mostly for people's human and civil rights."

However, Sleicher is too nervous to watch the news too closely tonight.

"I've had enough anxiety the past four years and it's been increasing and just this morning I was thinking, I'm not going to watch it at all," Sleicher tells SFR. "I'm going to watch a movie. I'm going to read. I have no control over the outcome. It will be what it will be."

There is a lot at stake for voters.

Tom Klemm, who lives outside of the city proper and also voted for Joe Biden at Turquoise Trail Charter School, tells SFR he's voting in-person on Election Day because he didn't send his ballot in on time and he wanted to drop it off himself to ensure it's counted. He tells SFR the experience was quick and easy but he is nervous about what the future holds, from later on tonight all the way through the end of the year.

"Who's in charge right now, it could go any which way…My only concern is what [Trump's] going to do between now and the 20th of January, swearing in a scorched earth policy," Klemm says.

Tom Klemm (right) and Helen Sanchez dropped off their mail-in ballots at Turquoise Charter School Tuesday to make sure their votes are counted.
Tom Klemm (right) and Helen Sanchez dropped off their mail-in ballots at Turquoise Charter School Tuesday to make sure their votes are counted. | Katherine Lewin

For Santanjo Lujan and Jordan Martinez, two Santa Feans in their late 20s, the most important thing is that the count be accurate, whether that takes until the end of the week or beyond. Their decision to vote today stems from a desire to be a part, albeit small, of changing the world for the better.

"I think we're just in a place in the world where whether you think your vote matters or not, it's just important to vote," Lujan says, declining to identify which candidate he supported. "I would hope that there's a little more coming together with the entire United States and trying to get that hatefulness out in terms of, not necessarily the president, but just in general, how the world is going right now."

Martinez, who voted for Biden, tells SFR there isn't one issue that pushed him out to cast his ballot today; rather, a culmination of national and world events.

"There's been a lot of division and a lot of fighting and hatred lately," Martinez says. "Hopefully we can finally come together again."

Santano Lujan and Jordan Martinez (from left to right) think the most important thing is that the vote count is accurate, even if it takes longer than usual.
Santano Lujan and Jordan Martinez (from left to right) think the most important thing is that the vote count is accurate, even if it takes longer than usual.