By David Arkin: CNJ correspondent
The number of people in Curry County who have early voted or requested an absentee ballot for the June 1 primary is nearing 1,000 people.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 718 people had early voted. Officials at the Curry County Clerk’s Office said they had sent out 255 absentee ballots.
During the 2002 primary, 1,153 Curry County voters either early voted or turned in an absentee ballot. The 2002 primary gained a lot of attention in the county because former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley — a Clovis native — ran and lost the Republican ticket for governor.
There are 16,857 registered Republican and Democratic voters in Curry County.
In Roosevelt County, 247 people have early voted and 57 absentee ballots have been sent out, said Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Lee Fraze. During the last primary, Fraze said 306 people early voted and 56 voters sent in absentee ballots.
People can early vote at the Curry County Clerk’s office or at the Clovis Police Department’s substation in the North Plains Mall until 6 p.m. Saturday.
Absentee ballots are accepted until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the same time polls close.
“It’s been rather heavy in here,” said Curry County Deputy Clerk Coni Jo Lyman. “It’s probably been pretty heavy here for a primary election. The key word is primary. We normally don’t see this kind of turnout for a primary.”
The high turnout in the county can be attributed to the much-talked about 9th Judicial District Attorney’s race between incumbent Brett Carter and challenger Matt Chandler, officials with the clerk’s office say.
Lyman said the clerk’s office has seen a steady flow of voters since the first day people could early vote.
“It’s started early and has continued on through,” she said. “In years past we haven’t seen a lot of activity early on. But this is great. We like to throw a party and have lots of people come.”
While voters are interested in the election here, that’s not the case in other areas of New Mexico, like in Chavez County.
Dave Kunko, the county’s clerk, said a little more than 600 people have early voted there.
With 61,406 residents, Chaves County is larger than Curry County (44,967) and more than three times the size of Roosevelt County (18,020).
“The number is pretty low for us,” he said. “There are just very few contested races in the primary. That has to be a big reason why people aren’t voting.”
Kunko said the early voting numbers are down “quite a bit” from previous years.
Besides the district attorney’s race, a voting site at the North Plains Mall has also helped early voter participation in Curry County, Lyman said.
“One of the appealing things about that site is that it’s easier for older people to get to, because there are no stairs there like there are at the courthouse,” she said. “It’s just a lot easier to get in and out of.”
Lyman said the mall site would probably be used again for the November general election.
“Having the building is great,” she said. “It’s a nice arrangement.”
Because the final days of the election fall on Memorial Day weekend — which is not the norm in New Mexico — Lyman encouraged those who have absentee ballots out to get them to the courthouse soon.
Monday is a holiday for state employees, but the county clerk’s office will be open from 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. so people can bring in their absentee ballots. People can also bring them in on Tuesday.
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Early voting numbers
718: Number of residents who have early voted in Curry County
255: Number of absentee ballots that have been sent out to Curry County voters
• People can early vote up until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
• Absentee ballots can be turned in by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
• The Curry County Clerk’s office will be open from 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day.