Voter turnout in New Mexico general election likely lower than in 2010 as state picks governor



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SANTA FE, New Mexico — Only about half of eligible New Mexico voters are expected to cast ballots in a general election deciding races for governor, U.S. Senate and whether Republicans can gain a historic majority in the state House of Representatives.

Before Election Day, at least 261,000 New Mexicans had cast ballots through early and absentee voting. Almost 608,000 New Mexicans or 53 percent of registered voters participated in the general election four years ago.

Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said the early voting totals point to lower turnout. Early voted ended over the weekend.

"We're going to be lighter than 2010 it appears despite adding 125,000 new registered voters," Sanderoff said.

Four years ago, just under half of votes were cast before Election Day through early and absentee balloting.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is favored to win re-election, but Democratic challenger Gary King received last-minute help from former President Bill Clinton in a recorded appeal for support that King used in automated calls to voters.

"I've known Gary and his family for decades now. I know them as decent, caring public servants who are always on the side of the people," said Clinton, who first met King's father, the late Bruce King, in the late 1970s. The elder King was the state's longest serving governor.

On the eve of the election, Martinez campaigned in southern New Mexico and stopped in Hatch, Sunland Park and Mesilla. King visited Santa Fe, Espanola and Albuquerque on Monday.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Tom Udall is trying to win a second term against GOP challenger Allen Weh.

Also on the ballot are races for the state's three congressional seats and close contests for secretary of state and land commissioner.

In Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties, voters will consider nonbinding questions on whether they support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Democrats accounted for about 48 percent of this year's early and absentee voters; 40 percent were Republicans; and 12 percent independents, according to Sanderoff. About 31 percent of registered voters statewide are Republicans and 47 percent are Democrats.

"A low turnout would mean fewer Democrats are voting since so many of the Republicans have voted early and absentee," Sanderoff said. "Democrats need a big turnout on Election Day."

Historically, the party controlling the White House faces difficulty in midterm elections.

All 70 House seats are up for grabs but the outcome of about 10 highly competitive races will determine whether Republicans can win their first majority in 60 years. Democrats currently hold a 37-33 edge.

Polls open from 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

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