Thousands of voters turn up early, but many will not turn up at all

Photo by Daniel Montano / NM News Port


When Mallory Sanchez walked out of the Student Union Building (SUB) at the University of New Mexico (UNM) on Nov. 2, she joined the pool of more than 370,000 early voters, according to the New Mexico secretary of state’s office.

“It’s exciting,” Sanchez said. “I’ve never got to do it before, so, first time.”

Sanchez said she decided to vote early out of convenience.

Compared to some locations during the 2012 presidential election, when poll wait times could exceed two hours, wait times were about 10 minutes. Sanchez said she got the convenience she was looking for.

But another voting trend has been taking place recently– fewer voters show up to the polls overall.

According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, voter turnout decreased by more than 20 percent since the 2004 Presidential election.

According to numbers from the secretary of state’s office, New Mexico is no different. In 2012, for example, fewer than 800,000 New Mexicans came out to the polls, even though there were nearly 1.3 million registered voters. That means only about 63 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, compared to about 70 percent in 2008, according to election and registration data.

As the downward trend in voter turnout continues, a wide breadth of scholars and advocacy groups are researching the trend.

According to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy and research organization, 6.1 million American felons do not vote because the law prohibits them to do so.  But that number only accounts for about 3 percent of the total voting eligible population.

The U.S. Census Bureau asked eligible voters their reasons for not voting in previous elections. The answers are part of the bureau’s voting and registration data collection. Respondents reported the number one reason for not voting was because they were “too busy”on election day. The second reason people did not vote was because they were “not interested.”

Overall, the reports included 11 different reasons for not voting, and indicate respondents could select only one reason. Additionally, the bureau’s reports do not specify if respondents could give detailed responses if selecting “other.”

NM Newsport investigates why some people choose not voting

The New Mexico News Port interviewed prospective voters who will not participate in this year’s election.

Some potential voters said they want to vote but bureaucratic red tape may prevent them from casting a ballot.

Sidney Abernathy said she is a new arrival to New Mexico who recently spent time touring the United States while homeless.

Abernathy is now a Bernalillo county resident. She said she tried voting early on Nov. 1 at a local polling station, but was denied entry.

When Abernathy first moved to New Mexico, she said she got her driver’s license in Los Alamos, and was consequently registered in that county.

Abernathy did not vote in previous elections, but said she was excited to vote in this one.

“This is the first year I’ve actually wanted to vote,” Abernathy said. “I didn’t used to believe in voting and I do now.”

Abernathy said she was frustrated encountering an issue that effectively disenfranchised her, because she was not clear on how the registration process worked.

Abernathy said she planned on voting for a third-party candidate as a way to voice her disapproval of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“It’s more of a moral obligation to me,” Abernathy said. “Even if I’m just casting my vote into the void, at least I voted, at least I gave my opinion as a citizen.”

Katherine Seiler also said she ran into registration issues.

Seiler did not discuss her personal story, but says this is her first time voting.  She is now old enough to vote in an election and says she is excited to do so.

Seiler said she tried registering before the Oct. 11 deadline, but her name was spelled wrong on her Social Security card.  She said she was unable to fix the issue before the cutoff date.

“It’s disappointing,” Seiler said. “I’ve had to go through just loop after loop for this whole business. There’s probably a lot of things they could do to make it easier, especially for first time voters.”

Judith Rivera-Kamps, a program specialist with UNM’s medical school, said she is a registered voter and has voted in the past.

But for this election, she said she probably will not be voting because she has no faith in most politicians.

“I believe that me not voting is making a statement,” Rivera-Kamps said. “I don’t trust politicians anymore, I think they’re all crooks”

Rivera-Kamps said she does feel a sort of obligation to vote and is not completely committed to abstaining.

Rivera-Kamps said if she does vote, har ballot would go to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“I actually feel guilt that I’m not voting and I might still,” Rivera-Kamps said. “I think that it’s something that’s good that we all should do.”

Andrew Dyer, a tankerman with an oil distribution company, said he is also not voting in this election. Unlike Rivera-Kamps, however, he says he does not see voting as important.

Dyer said he is an anarchist.  He says the entire idea of government is inherently flawed.

“I just don’t feel like government is the answer to anything,” Dyer said. “No matter what intention the government starts with, it always grows into something it was never meant to be.”

Dyer said he thinks everyone should be allowed to live their life as they see fit as long as they are not harming other people. He said he thinks any form of government will impede on that by forcing people to abide by certain views and laws.

Choosing to abstain is a form of protest against a system he does not believe in, Dyer said.

Dyer said casting a vote in the election, no matter who that vote is for,  is tantamount to giving approval to the entire system of government.

“You confirm that you are okay with being ruled,” Dyer said, “and lately, those in the lead are so violent and corrupt, I don’t see how anyone with a conscience can consent to it.”

Trey Trammell also said he sees not voting as a form of protest, as a statement to the political system.

There is more than just a choice between Democrat or Republican, Trammell said.

“I’m still choosing,” Trammel said. “I’m just choosing not to vote.”

Trammell says he describes himself as independent and has not seen any candidates that fully represent his political interests. He said his choice remains outside of major parties and the voting booth.

“There’s really no point in me voting,” Trammel said. “Because I’m alone, and that’s how it is.”

Back at the UNM SUB, Sanchez, just finished voting for the first time and said she thinks more people should vote but understands why some people might not.

“I don’t really see it as a civic duty,” Sanchez said. “I have family members that don’t do it, and they have their reasons, I mean, I feel like everyone has their own reasons.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday Nov. 8.

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