SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Candidates across New Mexico made last-minute appeals to voters Monday, but more than a third of the state’s electorate already had cast ballots on the eve of Election Day.
According to the secretary of state’s office, nearly 453,000 New Mexicans had taken advantage of early and absentee voting as of Monday.
Democrats accounted for about 219,400 of those voters, or 48 percent, and about 167,500 or 37 percent were Republicans. Nearly 53,000 votes had been cast by independents unaffiliated with a party and more than 12,000 were by voters registered with other parties, such as Libertarians and Greens.
In New Mexico, 47 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 32 percent are Republicans.
With polls set to open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, candidates and political parties focused on making certain their supporters participated in an election that will decide who controls the White House and Congress, as well as the Legislature and county offices across New Mexico.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez traveled the state with U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson, with stops scheduled in Santa Fe, Clovis, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Farmington and Albuquerque.
“We have to make sure everybody votes because every vote counts,” Martinez said at a chilly, early morning rally outside the GOP campaign headquarters in Santa Fe.
Democrats made similar efforts to woo voters and encourage them to go to the polls.
Democratic Sen. Tom Udall joined with Senate nominee Martin Heinrich and congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham for a midday rally targeting students at the University of New Mexico.
In Bernalillo County, home to one-third of the state’s electorate, about 182,200 people had cast ballots with early and absentee voting. That represented slightly more than two-fifths of the registered voters in the county.
Early voting ended Saturday, but absentee ballots can be returned to election officials up until polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the Bernalillo County clerk’s office, 149,277 early votes were cast — up nearly 18 percent from the presidential election four years ago. Democrats accounted for 74,889 of early ballots, 50,722 were from Republicans, and 23,616 were by third-party voters and independents.
The clerk’s office said 32,958 absentee ballots had been returned out of 41,123 issued to voters. In 2008, nearly 77,000 absentee ballots were cast by Bernalillo County residents.
Statewide, about 519,000 New Mexicans voted before polls opened in 2008, accounting for about three out of every five votes cast in the election.
As of Monday, the secretary of state’s office reported about 371,000 people had voted early — up from 347,159 in 2008. There were almost 81,600 absentee ballots cast statewide. Although more absentee ballots could be returned on Election Day, it appeared likely that absentee voting will fall far short of the 172,136 ballots cast four years ago.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said it appeared more voters have switched from mail-in absentee balloting and instead took advantage of the convenience of numerous early voting locations.
Voting patterns also may have changed because New Mexico wasn’t a battleground state in the presidential election as it has in the past, when campaigns often operated extensive get-out-the-vote efforts with absentee ballots.
Early voting was down in Santa Fe County, which is traditionally an important source of support for statewide Democratic candidates. According to the county clerk’s office, 35,936 people voted early. That’s down 1,379 from 2008. Of 6,864 absentee ballots issued, all but about 1,000 had been returned.
In San Juan County, usually a GOP stronghold in elections, early voting was up and absentee voting was done from four years ago.
San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said there were 22,230 early voters, compared with 18,469 in 2008. Of the 3,591 absentee ballots issued to voters, 3,139 had been returned. In 2008, about 5,800 absentee ballots were cast.