Election Day is still four weeks away, but New Mexicans can start voting Tuesday in the general election. Voters can go to their county clerk's office to cast a ballot in person, and clerks will begin mailing out absentee ballots. Tuesday also is the deadline for people to register to vote.
In the presidential election four years ago, 62 percent of New Mexico voters cast their ballots before polls opened on Election Day. Early and absentee voting accounted for nearly half of the ballots cast in the gubernatorial election two years ago.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said her office had received 15,199 requests for absentee ballots as of last Friday. Democrats accounted for 48 percent of those; Republicans 37 percent; 12 percent were from voters unaffiliated with a political party; and the remainder came from voters registered with other parties, including Greens and Libertarians.
In the 2008 general election, about 76,700 absentee ballots were cast in Bernalillo County, and early voting totaled nearly 127,000. The county is the largest in the state and is home to a third of New Mexico's voters.
Denise Lamb, the chief deputy clerk in Santa Fe County and a former state elections director, said only a quarter of Santa Fe County's ballots were cast on Election Day four years ago.
"People in Santa Fe County are early voters predominantly," Lamb said.
Early voting opportunities expand Oct. 20 with the opening of satellite polling locations, which will remain open through Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 6.
"When the alternate sites open, I think we will see a larger pool of people coming to vote," said Jennifer Garcia Kozlowski, supervisor of the Dona Ana County bureau of elections.
Dona Ana County, the second largest in the state, had about 900 absentee ballot requests as of last week.
In the presidential election four years ago, about 833,000 New Mexicans cast ballots — not quite 70 percent of the state's registered voters.
Tanya Shelby, San Juan County chief deputy clerk, said the clerk's office had received almost 1,800 absentee ballot requests as of Friday and some people had been calling to ask when they would receive their ballot in the mail.
"They're ready to vote," Shelby said.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.