Popularity of early voting forcing candidates to spend early and often

Hall outside of the Bernco Clerk's office. Photo by Carson Schneider / NM News Port

 

New Mexican candidates are changing the way they campaign because early and absentee voting trends show more and more people are voting before election day.

According to election data from the Bernalillo County Clerk, since 2004, the majority of votes cast during presidential elections were cast early.

In 2008, almost 71 percent of votes cast were submitted either through mail (using absentee ballots) or in-person at early voting precincts. That ratio dropped slightly in 2012, when 69 percent of the votes in Bernalillo County were cast prior to election day.

“This year Bernalillo County is setting up 18 locations for people to vote early around the county due to large early voting turnout,” said Bernalillo County spokesman Joey Keefe.

Data Source: Bernalillo County; Chart by Jacob Leyba / NM News Port

“It has changed the way people campaign,” said incumbent State Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto (D-District 15). Ivey-Soto is facing Republican Eric Burton in the November general election.

The senator said candidates have to get their messages across sooner.

“It used to be build your messaging, build your messaging and crescendo on election day,” Ivey-Soto said. “Now, because more people are voting early, I need to peak a month prior and hold all the way to election day.”

As a result, Ivey-Soto said, the campaign process has become more expensive.

“If it were up to me, I would shorten the window to early vote,” Ivey-Soto said. “But precincts would remain open seven days a week.”

Keefe says while campaigns are becoming more expensive because of early voting, candidates can also benefit. He says the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office sells to candidates the list of early voters and the list of people that have requested absentee ballots.

Ivey-Soto agrees. He said he appreciates knowing who voted early because then he knows who is left to focus his limited campaign advertising on.

“The advantage of knowing who’s requested an absentee ballot means that we can immediately send that person a postcard, so that they get a last minute reminder, and then we get to take them off my list,” Ivey-Soto said.

Keefe said early voting has been available in New Mexico for about 15 years. He says early voting has not led to an overall increase in voter turnout — but it’s made it easier for already-registered voters to vote.

According to New Mexico’s Absentee Voting website, New Mexico voters may cast an absentee ballot through the mail or vote in person at their county clerk’s office during regular business hours starting 28 days prior to an election.

Election day is Nov. 8.

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