At the Polls

Voters turn out to weigh in races up and down the ballot

Northern New Mexico’s First Judicial District race between incumbent Mary Carmack-Altwies and her predecessor Marco Serna has been one of the most expensive races in the state, and was top of mind for some Santa Fe voters at the polls on election day for the June 4 primary.

Visiting St. John’s United Methodist Church to cast her ballot in the morning, Michelle McGinnis told SFR the DA’s race ranked highest in importance for her and she was supporting Carmack-Altwies because of her approach to DWI cases—a point of contention in the race.

“I did not vote for Marco Serna, that’s for sure,” McGinnis says. “I think [Carmack-Altwies] has a great idea about the drunk drivers: Letting them go, getting the evidence and then getting them either into a program or in jail or whatever.”

District 1 voter David Salazar, on the other hand, said Carmack-Altwies’ handling of the Rust trial—where prosecutors dropped and refiled charges against Baldwin several years after the October 2021 shooting—and conviction rates for DUI cases were exactly the reason he did not cast his ballot in favor of her.

“That’s a tough race, but I believe Marco Serna is going to do a good job,” Salazar says.

Yet others told SFR they chose not to vote at all in the race, such Alankin Roybal, who voted at the Hondo Fire Station #2 off Old Las Vegas Highway.

“I heard that both of them were not very good, so I didn’t vote for either of them,” Roybal says. He did, however, cast a ballot for Stephen Chiulli in the three-way Democratic primary for Santa Fe County Commission District 4 race. “He seems like he’s taking an aggressive stance on short-term rentals and the housing crisis in Santa Fe County,” Roybal says. “It seems like a lot of other county commissioners are not really doing much about it. They might say certain things and act like it, but they’re not taking an aggressive approach towards getting our essential workers affordable housing. He seems like he’s pretty adamant about making a specific change.”

Carmen Moses, casting a ballot at Atalaya Elementary, says she also didn’t vote in the DA’s race saying she “didn’t do enough research,” but voted for Mika Old in the County Commission District 4 race.

“I know people who know her,” Moses says. “Generally, I wouldn’t say I have all the information, but I feel confident enough for her.”

Reed Schaper, also voting at Atalaya, says he voted for Carmack-Altwies because he “wanted the current incumbent, not the last incumbent.” He also voted for Adam Fulton Johnson in the District 4 race. “I just thought he’s the best qualified person,” he says.

Local election officials braced for a long day, with polls open from 7 am to 7 pm across the county. The Santa Fe County Clerk’s office tells SFR the temporary outtage at Amy Biehl Community School in the morning was resolved, and no other technological problems have been reported. The Secretary of State’s Office reports as of 1 pm, 163,535 of the more than 1.3 million registered voters have cast ballots, with nearly 60% coming from registered Democrats. Republicans cast most of the remaining ballots, with Libertarians casting 507 votes so far. Statewide, 4,187 people have utilized same-day registration; approximately 500 in Santa Fe County.

Common Cause New Mexico had volunteers in the field and manning a hotline for problems. Common Cause Policy Director Mason Graham tells SFR no reports had come in from Santa Fe County, but the organization is “investigating” an incident in Rio Arriba County “between a voter and a poll worker and a campaign worker…I believe the incident was over some political apparel. The voter was wearing some political apparel and was asked to remove it. A campaign worker tried to advocate for her, and then the campaign worker was asked to leave the polling place for causing a disturbance, so we’ll be reaching out to the Rio Arriba county clerk about that incident today.” Nationally, Graham notes, “the reporting has been pretty light.”

Over at the Santa Fe County Fair Grounds on Rodeo Road, poll workers Jill Hough and Becky Andorfer were helping voters either register to vote or change their political party in order to vote. Because New Mexico holds closed primary elections, voters must be registered to one of its major parties—Democrat, Republican or Libertarian—to participate. Election law changes in 2019 and 2020 now allow voters registered as Independents or to minor parties to switch their party affiliation in order to vote in the primary.

Lynne Mendes was doing just that at the polls and said the state’s closed primary system “drives me nuts.” Both she and her husband are registered as independents, she said, but he didn’t want to change his party to vote. She’ll switch back after the primary, she adds, but if she doesn’t register with a major party, “I would have no say, no voice.” Hopefully the system changes, she says, “so it doesn’t disenfranchise voters.”

Hough and Andorfer also want to ensure voters don’t become disenfranchised, and mentioned potential legislation to change the state’s closed primary system—Andorfer herself re-registered from being an Independent in order to participate. The process for doing so is quick and painless, they say. “This takes less time than standing in line to get a cappuccino at Starbucks,” Andorfer quips.

The pair touts the popularity of both voting and working at the fairgrounds, where presiding judge and long-time volunteer Ronald Andermann tells SFR everything had been running smoothly.

“Everyone should volunteer for an election in their lifetime,” Andorfer notes, as both she and Hough recounted seeing whole families come in to participate throughout early voting and how the process reinforces the importance of participating.

Poll worker Patricia Gurulé, like Andorfer and Hough, also grew up voting with her family—her father was a volunteer and would take her along. It was a fun day, she notes, particularly because “they brought us things to eat.”

It also was a family affair at the fairgrounds’ entrance, where Magistrate Judge Morgan Wood, who is running for re-election against challenger Melissa Mascarenas, held up signs to passersby alongside her husband Buford Wood. Nearby, volunteers for County Commission District 2 candidate Lisa Cacari Stone, Joanna Anaya and Karl Cardenas, stood out as the wind picked up. Anaya said it’s her first time volunteering for a candidate. “I wish I could have done more,” she said.

Former County Clerk Geraldine Salazar, who is running against incumbent Katharine Clark, held a sign for herself toward the entrance and tells SFR she has no regrets about jumping back into politics. “I did what I felt I had to do,” she says.

Walking away from the polls with their dog Chief, Kenneth White and Alicia Garcia-White say they both turned out to support Veronica Krupnick, one of three Democrats running for the Santa Fe-area state Senate District 24 seat currently held by longtime state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, who is not seeking re-election. County Commissioner Anna Hansen and former state Rep. Linda Trujillo also are in the race. “I’m grateful to be able to support her,” White says, noting he learned about Krupnick’s candidacy during election forums.

Garcia-White said Krupnick’s “experience and knowledge, even though she’s young [Krupnick is 28] is so important, and the voice she can bring for Native people.”

Garcia-White says she also turned out to support Clerk Clark; “I think she’s doing an incredible job: progressive and back to grassroots, which we needed.”

While the presidential race won’t truly come into focus until after the primary, it nonetheless was on some voters’ minds as they entered the polls. Santa Fe High French teacher Sarah Rebekah turned up with her dog Ismaël and said she’d re-registered as a Republican to cast a vote for Donald Trump, whom she says she “feels sorry for.”

Leslie Lakind, on the other hand, voted uncommitted in the Democratic primary saying he would like President Joe Biden “to feel the pressure to say that Israel needs to modify its position,” though he intends ”support him vigorously in November.” Fellow Democratic voter Salazar echoes that last sentiment: “We have to beat Trump, and the most important thing is to have Joe Biden in there,” Salazar says.

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