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County Clerk: Election Day turnout not as high as hoped

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Election Day went “extremely well” at the 11 polling locations in Chaves County, but the area did not see the large in-person turnout expected Tuesday, according to Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko.

“We were actually hoping for 5,000 to 6,000 yesterday,” he said, “but we only got 3,752.”

Kunko said that overall voter turnout for the 2020 general election at 63.98% of registered voters, or 22,482 people, was strong, but not as high as wanted for a general election.

“Absentee and early vote were amazing,” he said. “Early vote was fantastic, and we felt that Election Day was pretty low, a little on the low side. We were hoping that because of absentee and early voting amounts, we would hit around 72% to 75% total turnout. It ended up pretty much close to what we normally do for general elections, which is in the mid- to low-60 percentile.”

The only ballots still outstanding are about 54 provisional ballots, Kunko said. There are no races that would be affected by that number of uncounted votes. Provisional ballots are often given when people show up at polls to vote but there are questions about their registrations or whether they have already voted.

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The canvassing board, which in Chaves County is the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, will meet Nov. 10 to decided whether to qualify or disqualify those ballots.

Kunko and his staff, which includes Deputy County Clerk Cindy Fuller, now the clerk-elect, were finished processing all ballots by about 10:20 p.m. That included military ballots and hand-tallied ballots. Hand-tallied ballots are typically absentee ballots that cannot be read by a machine.

“We are super proud of our staff,” said Fuller. “We were short-handed, but they didn’t miss a beat. They were amazing.”

Kunko echoed that thought, adding that staff gave up lunch hours during advance voting to handle demand during those periods.

“The other thing we want to say is that we thank the poll workers,” he said. “They do this in the even years twice a year, and it is kind of a thankless job because it is a ton of responsibility. And we just like to express our extreme gratitude for them for stepping up and doing this, especially in a year like this.”

Kunko also said that COVID-safe practices and extra sanitation and cleaning helped to keep people free from coronavirus to his knowledge. While there was a dispute between a poll worker and poll challenger, the situation did not deter voting, he said.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.