County Clerk’s Office Sees Decrease in Early Voting

Voter outreach coordinator hopes for Election Day uptick

Polls at the Santa Fe County Fair Building sit empty on May 21, the second day of expanded early voting. (Evan Chandler)

Few cars sat in the parking lots of several polling locations across Santa Fe following the start of expanded early voting May 18. A handful of voters made their way in to cast their ballot while poll workers smiled, notifying them it was the “perfect time—no wait.”

At Christian Life Church, Andrew Gallagher, a poll worker for five years in Santa Fe, tells SFR “it’s been very light” in terms of traffic, something he attributes to the election being a primary.

“Primaries, we’re not very heavy on voter turnout,” Gallagher says. “What will happen is we start kind of slow, we’ll creep up and then on the last day, we’ll have all the procrastinators come.”

Ronald Andermann, a presiding judge at the Santa Fe County Fair building and an election worker for over 20 years, agrees with Gallagher’s assessment, he tells SFR, saying the first day of expanded early voting was “a little slow” but has picked up since then.

As the June 4 Primary Election Day draws nearer, Office of the Santa Fe County Clerk Voter Outreach Coordinator Mitchell Cox tells SFR the county is seeing “a slight decrease” in early voter turnout in comparison to the 2022 primary election so far. But don’t ring the alarm yet, he says.

“I think a large factor beyond just the top of the ticket—the lack of excitement in a presidential race where candidates are both decided—would be just because COVID now is not really as much of a factor as it was even two years ago,” Cox says. “So we had more folks on early or absentee in the 2022 primary and then much less turnout on Election Day, and I think we are anticipating a lot more turnout on Election Day than in previous elections for this one.”

New Mexico holds a closed partisan primary, which means only voters who are registered with a major political party are eligible to vote in that party’s primary. Those who are not registered can use same-day registration to switch to a major party and vote in the respective election, following 2022 changes to state law.

By the time the polls close at 7 pm on Election Night, Cox says the team anticipates around 32,000 voters including absentee ballots, early voters and those who vote in person—which equates to roughly 28% of all registered voters and 37% of major party voters that are eligible.

According to May 21 statistics from the New Mexico Office of the Secretary of State, in the Democratic primary races, a total of 2,563 people have voted early in Santa Fe County—1,307 by absentee ballot and 1,256 in person. In other major parties, a total of 313 Republicans cast ballots, as well as 13 Libertarians. Sixty people used same-day voter registration in Santa Fe County: 51 Democrats and nine Republicans. Voters requested 4,956 absentee ballots to date in Santa Fe County: 4,386 Democrats, 547 Republicans and 23 Libertarians.

At the state level, however, New Mexico Office of the Secretary of State Communications Director Alex Curtas tells SFR via email that turnout is “looking good so far” and seems to track with previous primary elections.

“With expanded early voting now underway across the state, we’ll likely see an uptick in voting from now until Primary Election Day as New Mexicans take advantage of the many convenient ways they have to vote,” Curtas says, noting individuals can drop off their absentee ballots at any polling place or secure dropbox, as well as mail them in.

Today marks the deadline to request an absentee ballot for the primary election. To request one, go to the New Mexico Secretary of State Voter Services website and fill out an application by midnight. Cox says starting this election and going forward, voters can opt into the permanent absentee list by checking an additional box when you apply.

“It just means that voters don’t have to do any paperwork for future elections unless they move out of state or cancel the registration or change their mind,” he says. “They’ll receive a ballot automatically for every election in the future.”

All ballots must be returned to either the County Clerk’s Office or any Election Day polling location before 7 pm on Election Day. A full list of drop box sites can be found here. The Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office allows voters to track their absentee ballots through an SMS-based system. It works for mailed ballots, but does not track through the clerk’s receiving and qualification process. Sign up here.

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