Things appeared to be running relatively smoothly Tuesday morning at polling locations around Santa Fe County.
SFR stopped at half a dozen locations large and small to talk to voters, poll workers and challengers and the presiding judges in charge of each polling location. As of noon on Tuesday, none had seen any voter intimidation, electioneering or potential voter fraud.
At the Santa Fe County Fire Station in the La Tierra neighborhood near Las Campanas, one voter, who identifies herself only as Leslie, says she cast a ballot for the first time in 40 years. She does not tell SFR who she voted for, though she makes her intentions pretty clear.
"I think the office of the president depends on how many adults are in the room. I think all of the adults left a while back, which gives me some anxiety, so I decided to vote for somebody that I think will hire a few adults," Leslie says, adding, "Climate change is also a big issue in my life."
Leslie last cast a ballot for Jimmy Carter in 1976 as a senior in high school.
Her vote this year will likely be among a record-setting total for New Mexico—and possibly for Santa Fe, as well. According to lunchtime figures from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver's office, 830,844 New Mexicans had cast ballots this year, with 53,579 on Election Day so far.
The previous record turnout for the state was in 2008, when 833,365 people voted. Officials were confident that figure would be eclipsed by the times the polls close at 7 pm.
In Santa Fe, 2,562 voters had done their civic duty on Election Day as of 11:30 am. That's on top of 73,118 votes cast in the county early and by absentee ballot.
Poll workers at the La Tierra station tell SFR they identified one problem with a voter whose birth date did not match the voter records and they attributed that to an error that might have been entered when she registered to vote.
The woman became upset when she was unable to cast a regular ballot, and after nearly an hour of calling county staff to try to work it out, polling location staff gave her a provisional ballot that must be verified by the county clerk's office. Workers say this has been the only major issue so far.
In the morning, a line stretched all the way out of the building and around the parking lot, but since then the lines have died down. Workers at small polling locations across the county echo a similar experience—a crush around 7 am followed by a slow trickle mid-morning.
The polling location at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds is still packed and busy with activity. This is one of the county's largest polling locations, and poll workers have processed over 400 ballots by noon.
Voter Derek Sanchez tells SFR that the experience voting at the fairgrounds was easy and straightforward, just as he had expected. But he is somewhat concerned for what will happen when the polls close.
"I am kind of concerned about them counting all the votes tonight. There are just so many absentee ballots that I think it might be hard to call," he tells SFR, adding that he feels a nagging sense of anxiety about how people may react if it takes too long to call the winner in the presidential race.
Sanchez says he usually votes early, but couldn't this year because he got sick and recovered just in time for Election Day. He says he is voting for Donald Trump, as he did in 2016, and that his main issue is abortion.
Despite the political tension leading up to Election Day and the divisiveness of the election, the calm, welcoming atmosphere at the downtown polling location at Montezuma Lodge feels like the model of bipartisan patriotic spirit.
The two election challengers, Judith Nowers representing the Republican Party and Don Moseley representing the Democratic Party, chat amicably.
"It seems like people are on top of what's going on, people are very efficient here," says Nowers, telling SFR, "Everything is very peaceful and we're having a good time just welcoming people in to vote because it is a privilege to vote."
Moseley agrees, then credits Nowers with deciding to move the absentee ballot box out of an area where they were unable to see it earlier in the morning to a position next to the poll worker's table.
When SFR arrives, poll worker Rise Miller has just processed the station's 59th ballot of the day. The young man came home to Santa Fe to attend school remotely for the first semester of his senior year at Duke University, where he is working toward a double major in public policy and history.
"My main concern was that people wouldn't abide by the new COVID-19 rules, but that is not the case, everyone is wearing a mask and distancing and it's all gone very well so far," says Miller.
It's his first time working the polls, and he's working alongside his grandmother, Lynn Miller, who is the presiding judge of this polling station. Lynn, who also grew up in Santa Fe, says she's worked the polls since 1978. Lynn beams as she tells SFR that she was there with both Rise and his father—her son—the first time they went to vote.
As the two pose proudly for a photo, a glance at their nametags shows that the grandmother-grandson duo represent opposite parties. Rise is a Democrat, while Lynn is a Republican. But both say although they may have differing opinions on specific issues or candidates, they are united by their passion for the democratic process.
"I make it my policy with friends and family not to discuss politics," says Lynn, "What's important is that people participate."
"Both parties, at the very least within our family, agree that the right to vote is incredibly sacrosanct and making sure that everyone regardless of whether we agree with them or not—that sort of collaboration is what is most important right now."