Despite a crowded field of candidates running for Chaves County sheriff, and a heated race for magistrate judge, early and absentee voting for the June 3 primaries has not been as heavy as some had hoped.
As of Friday afternoon, 2,062 Chaves County voters had cast ballots in early and absentee voting. That’s about 75 percent of the early and absentee votes cast in the county four years ago.
“In my opinion, the turnout is very low,” said County Clerk Dave Kunko.
“Typically, primaries are low in Chaves County, but it seems lower to me than normal. I believe it’s low.”
Early voting, which began May 17, ends today.
Early voting today will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Area D of the Chaves County Administrative Center at 1 Saint Mary’s Place, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Roswell Shopping Mall at 4501 N. Main St.
Only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in the closed primaries.
In the 2010 Democrat primary, 581 Chaves County Democrats cast ballots in early and absentee voting.
A total of 2,167 Chaves County Republicans cast early and absentee ballots in the 2010 Republican primary.
The 2,062 early and absentee votes cast in Chaves County as of Friday afternoon equate to 75 percent of the 2,748 early and absentee ballots cast in the county in the 2010 Republican and Democrat primaries.
Magistrate judge candidate Bobby Arnett said a lower primary turnout than 2010 was to be expected.
“This is what we knew going into this; there are just so few offices that are contested that there’s not much interest in the election,” Arnett said.
Arnett noted there was a contested Republican gubernatorial race in 2010, whereas Gov. Susana Martinez is unopposed in this year’s GOP primary.
In 2010, there also was a contested GOP race for the U.S. House of Representatives, a race between two Democrats for governor, a race between two Democrats for a Chaves County commission seat, a contested race between two Democrats for a state representative seat, two Republicans running for magistrate judge, and contested primaries for other state offices.
“So really there’s not a lot of interest,” Arnett said. “The numbers are down, but I think everybody knew that going into this. We are doing everything that we can, of course.”
Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers said the turnout numbers are disappointing.
“I was hoping that the sheriff’s race would produce a little better turnout, but without any Democrats involved and a lot of people unopposed, it’s not really surprising that we are not having as good a turnout as in the past,” Rogers said.
The most crowded field in this year’s local primaries is the group of four contenders running for the Republican nomination for Chaves County sheriff. Incumbent Sheriff Rob Coon is ineligible due to term limits.
Arthur Fleming, a gas utility employee and former New Mexico mounted patrolman; Gary Graves, a former De Baca County sheriff, Britt Snyder; chief deputy of the sheriff’s office; and Pat Barncastle, an investigator for the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office, appear on ballots in that order.
Rogers said he hopes voting will pick up on primary election day next week.
“I would hope so, but you never know,” Rogers said. “It’s always difficult. Even people that are interested in politics have a hard time staying interested in uncontested races.”
Rogers and Arnett appear on ballots for the Division 1 magistrate judge race in that order.
In other contested races this year, five Democrats — Howie Morales, Alan Webber, Lawrence Rael, Gary King and Linda Lopez — are vying for the Democrat nomination for governor.
Allen Weh and David Clements are running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Incumbent Sen. Tom Udall is unopposed in the Democrat primary.
Pam Richardson and James Townsend are running against each other for the Republican nomination for District 54 state representative. The seat is being vacated by Republican Bill Gray of Artesia. No Democrat is running for the legislative seat.
All other local, state and federal races are uncontested in the primaries.