But more Republicans than Democrats voted through direct initial elections, which ended Saturday.
Some district clerks said on Monday that they used a 2019 change in state law that allowed regional registrars to send 10,000 ballots or more to start eligible ballots and put them in the tabulation of the vote two weeks before election day.
But the flood of absentee ballots can still cause delays in elections in several districts whose number of votes has changed significantly today, Tuesday.
“We are always busy – but this is quadrupled,” Santa Fe District Officer Geraldine Salazar said on Monday. “This is perhaps the most difficult election ever.”
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and other state officials have urged voters to use votes not present this year instead of direct votes to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
However, the state’s Supreme Court last month rejected a petition by most district clerks to conduct primary elections as a letter-in election, which ruled that state law did not provide such an option.
Instead, all the main eligible voters – Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians for this year’s election cycle – are sent a request form that they can return to get absent ballots.
The message seems to have been heeded.
In Doña Ana County, more than 8,700 absentee ballots were received by the District Registrar’s Office on Monday afternoon, but an additional 9,500 absentee ballots that had been sent out after the request had not yet been submitted, Deputy Registrar Lindsey Bachman said.
“We did everything we could to prepare for the entry of ballots that were not present,” Bachman told the Journal.
District Officer Lea Keith Manes said more than 2,700 absent ballots had been received on Monday. In the 2016 primary elections, only 268 absentee ballots were sent, he said.
“It’s challenging, but we have good workers,” Manes said.
He also said that the consolidation of polling stations on Election Day could make the vote count easier, although other regional clerks warned that surges of ballots that were absent sent or handed over on Election Day could complicate matters.
“It’s been quite busy with absentee ballots,” said San Miguel County Officer Geraldine Gutierrez, who said around 4,500 absentee ballots in his county had returned more than 5,600 requested.
While direct voting on Election Day will still take place in much of New Mexico, it will not be offered on some Native American lands.
With tribal populations severely affected by coronavirus outbreaks, at least seven pueblos – Acoma, Tesuque, Zia, Isleta, Cochiti, Picuris and Taos – will not have Election Day polling sites, according to the Secretary of the State Office.
However, tribal members can still vote on Tuesday at other non-tribal polling stations.
Other tribal groups, including chapters from the Navajo Nation, have worked to consolidate the number of polling stations in an effort to reduce person-to-person contact.
Elevated Election Day votes – either through direct voting or last-minute voting – could increase New Mexico’s overall participation rate to around the level of the 2016 main elections that set a record, when 326,000 voters voted, at least in part, to interested in the hot Democratic presidential primary election between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The overall participation rate that year was 34% of those eligible to vote in the race, up from an average of 28% in the presidential election year in New Mexico since 1996.
This year’s main election featured a hotly contested race in several New Mexico congressional districts.
Seven Democrats and three Republicans are competing for candidacy in the 3rd New District Congress based in northern New Mexico, as US Vice President Ben Ray Luján, DN.M., is delaying re-election efforts to run for the US Senate seat now held by Tom Udall, who retired.
In the 2nd Congress District based in South New Mexico, Republican Claire Chase of Roswell, Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo and Chris Mathys of Las Cruces competed for opportunities to face the incumbent Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in November.
Meanwhile, Luján was the only Democrat who ran for the US Senate seat, but three Republicans – Mark Ronchetti, Elisa Martinez and Gavin Clarkson – faced the GOP nomination.
The 112 legislative seats are also ready for elections this year, and some moderate Senate Democrats face challenges from more progressive opponents.
That includes Senator Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, who has been trying to keep the seat he has held since 2001 after being sentenced last year for alleged drunk driving. He ran against fellow Democrat Leo Jaramillo from Española.
Some major races – involving Democrats and Republicans – have been marked by loud campaign mailers sent by outside groups, and at least one county officer said some voters might be ready for the election cycle to end.
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