By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Curry County is following a nationwide trend fueled by Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan groups pouring resources into registering voters, a push spurred by the near deadlock of the 2000 presidential race and polls that predict another tight election this year.
According to the county clerk’s office, registration numbers are up by 1,600 since June. Voter registration for the Nov. 2 General Election ends at 5 p.m. today.
County Clerk Mario Trujillo expects more than 21,000 county residents to have registered for the upcoming election by the deadline.
The clerk’s office hired four part-time workers to handle the extra work leading up to the registration deadline, said Coni Jo Lyman, chief deputy clerk of the Curry County Clerk’s Office. Lyman and staff members were entering registrants into the computer system Monday afternoon and preparing 1,300 absentee ballots to send out today.
By Monday afternoon, 9,737 Republicans and 8,365 Democrats were registered to vote in the county, she said.
Early voting also begins today. Voters will be able to cast their votes on voting machines at the courthouse between now and the Nov. 2 General Election, Trujillo said.
Each ballot used in the local elections will be precinct specific, selecting only the appropriate races for each voter to consider, he said.
With voter registration initiatives wrapping up, local and national groups will now focus on getting voters out to the polls.
Chris Heinz, step-son of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, was in Albuquerque on Monday to support the Democratic get-out-to-vote initiatives, speaking with students at the University of New Mexico about the importance of voting in the upcoming election.
“I know that we have done a lot of good work here,” Heinz said. “It is still a toss-up state. And the Republicans have put more money than ever into get-out-and-vote (initiatives), so the challenge will be bigger than ever.”
Yier Shi, Republican National Committee spokesperson, said essentially the same thing.
“It’s going to be a close race across the states, and New Mexico is not an exception,” Shi said. “We already have started a lot of the effort.”
The New Voters Project, a nationwide grassroots and non-partisan organization focused on getting 18- to 24-year-old Americans registered to vote, is also preparing to get voters out to the polls, said James Moore, New Mexico coordinator for New Voters Project.
In Curry and Roosevelt counties, the New Voters Project has registered between 1,300 and 1,500 voters, most of them students at Clovis Community College and Eastern New Mexico University.
“We’ll be calling them and knocking on their doors, so they know how to vote, where to go vote, how to do early voting, and why it is so important that they vote in this election,” Moore said.
Local politicians also agreed that getting voters out on election day is extremely important this year.
“It was proven four years ago, every vote counts,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis. “Knowing the election is going to be very close, it is just imperative we exercise our Constitutional rights.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story