Over a hundred thousand in New Mexico cast ballots before Election Day

New Mexicans push early and absentee ballots, seeking convenience and avoiding crowds

By: - November 8, 2023 12:03 am

A polling site in the Village of Bernalillo near the El Zócalo Plaza. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

More than 117,000 New Mexicans cast a ballot before polls even opened on Tuesday, Nov. 7 in the 2023 municipal elections statewide.

As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the New Mexico Secretary of State reported 103,242 people voted on Election Day, showing that the amount of early votes and absentee ballots compared to the number of in-person election day voters was close.

Why? New Mexicans said convenience, accessibility and avoiding illnesses like COVID-19 were major reasons to cast ballots early.

Over 31,000 New Mexicans sent in their votes via absentee ballots and more than 88,400 people showed up to the polls in person during early voting. Those votes made up about 54% of total votes in the election as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The numbers

During early voting, 88,487 people voted in person, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Another 28,958 absentee ballots were cast during early voting.

On Election Day by 5 p.m., about another 2,300 absentee ballots came in, adding up to 31,256 absentee ballots.

A total 43,184 people requested absentee ballots statewide.

All vote totals remain unofficial until certified by the Secretary of State.

Convenience and accessibility

Eileen VanWie is a former co-president of the League of Women Voters of Southern New Mexico and one of the tens of thousands of people who sent in an absentee ballot during early voting. 

Source NM brought out the postage stamps and communicated with her via U.S. Mail about why she prefers to put her ballot in a mailbox.

VanWie wrote that convenience is one of the reasons she likes to vote by mail, something reiterated by other voters as well online and at the polls on Tuesday.

In another Source NM interview by mail, Santa Fe resident Jessica Bicoll echoed the convenience factor.

I prefer to stay home and do it on my own time,” Bicoll wrote.

The ability to look up candidates and their stances, and research other questions on the ballot, is something New Mexican voters on social media said is a really nice aspect of absentee voting.

Albuquerque resident Nicole Finch told Source NM she appreciates being able to take the time to think over each question and look up references on the candidates.

“It’s much less stressful because I can take all the time I need,” she said.

Finch also said she can sit down while she’s filling out the absentee ballot, as opposed to waiting in line in person.

“Accessibility is an issue for me and my family so not having to stand around and wait a long time is really helpful,” she said.

Another New Mexican voter on social media said mail-in voting as someone who is an elder without a vehicle is convenient.

Avoiding illnesses

Finch started voting by absentee ballot exclusively shortly before the start of the pandemic, which then pushed her to continue.

The start of the pandemic in 2020 pushed VanWie to start voting by mail, too. VanWie said she’s vaccinated and continues to wear masks to protect herself.

As COVID continues to spread with new variants, voting by mail lessens the chances of being exposed to the virus. It also minimizes exposure to other infectious diseases that can spike up in the wintertime, like influenza or RSV.

Another voter, Mariam Chaiken who lives in Las Cruces, told Source NM via email that she voted during the early voting period in part because she’s looking out for her health. As a senior, she said, she wants to register her vote earlier because “who knows what tomorrow might bring?”

Some voters Source NM talked to on Tuesday said they showed up for the lively atmosphere Election Day brings. Other voters more vulnerable to illnesses acknowledged the loss of that experience but wanted to prioritize their health, like Carol Norris.

Norris said on social media that she likes the voting atmosphere but, with health issues, voted early to avoid COVID exposure and wait in shorter lines.

Similarly, VanWie has a husband who experiences health issues, and she said voting by mail is just easier.

“Some people like the tradition of voting in person on Election Day,” she said. “It is a valuable tradition, but the most important thing is voting. I want my voice counted.”

Voters who missed early voting

Many voters Source NM talked to on Tuesday said time flew by, and they just didn’t get a chance to vote early or by absentee ballot this year, even if that’s what they usually do.

Nancy Latuja, the last person to cast a ballot at the Corrales Recreation Center on Tuesday evening, said she usually votes early but just kept forgetting this year. 

She said she likes to avoid long lines as well as any political tension that can occur at polling sites, although she’s never seen it in Corrales.

Mike Haight also cast his ballot in Corrales on Tuesday evening. He said he typically does early voting but voting on Election Day this year worked best with his schedule.

While early voting makes it convenient for everyone to get their vote in and offers shorter lines, Haight said, he still likes the atmosphere of Election Day.

“I always felt like it was fun to vote on the day of,” he said.

A map at the Corrales Recreation Center shows the 2023 voting centers.
A map at the Corrales Recreation Center shows the 2023 voting centers. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

For others, the deadline to get a vote in during the early voting period was somewhat out of their hands.

Barbara Horowitz moved to Socorro in 2021 and said she’s still trying to get caught up with local politics. She waited for the in-person debates held for different positions up for election that weren’t held until late October and early November.

The last day recommended to mail in ballots was Oct. 31, which leaves a full seven days for it to make it to the clerk’s office. Because of that, Horowitz waited to turn her absentee ballot in on Election Day.

“I didn’t want to take any chances of losing my vote,” she said via email.

Yvonne Lovato dropped off her absentee ballot at the Corrales Recreation Center on Tuesday evening shortly before the polls closed. She also said she wasn’t able to mail it in time.

“I just needed to be sure to get it in,” Lovato said.

Ensuring that her vote gets counted and not having to worry about doing it last-minute is why Silvia Ellison said she usually does early voting. This year, she said, she kept putting it off and had a busy schedule and ended up voting in person on Tuesday evening in Corrales.

She said she came right after work to the polls.

“I almost didn’t think I was gonna make it tonight,” Ellison said.

Some voters Source NM talked to at polling sites in Rio Rancho said they trust voting in person more than voting by mail. However, voting by mail is a safe and secure way to vote, and there are multiple safeguards to protect the ballot and verify voter information.

People used to voting on Election Day

After casting his ballot at the Corrales Recreation Center Tuesday evening, Gary Newell said he always votes in person because he likes the atmosphere, not because he distrusts other methods of voting.

He said it’s also a chance to run into others he knows.

That’s what Julia Garcia also said, who voted in Bernalillo on Tuesday afternoon with her sister.

“A day like today, we run into everybody we know,” Garcia said.

Julia (right) and her sister Virginia Garcia voted at the polling site near the El Zócalo Plaza in the Village of Bernalillo. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Maureen Cooke, after voting on Tuesday evening at the Corrales Recreation Center, said she’s always voted on Election Day because that’s how she’s used to doing it. She said she’s never voted with an absentee ballot.

“Old habits die hard, I guess,” she said.

It’s a habit for Chris Bauman to go in person too. He always voted on Election Day so he could bring his kids with him to see the process. They’re older now, he said, but voting on Tuesday stuck with him.

Like Garcia, he said it’s nice to see his neighbors and others he knows at the polls too.

“It’s just kind of fun,” he said.


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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.