Smaller voting crowds possible
November 4, 2020
Quay County's clerk said she wouldn't be surprised if crowds at polling places Tuesday for the general election were smaller than usual because so many residents had cast their ballots during early voting.
After the final early voter had submitted his ballot a few minutes before 6 p.m. Saturday, the total number of early voters in the county stood at 2,138. That beat the old early voting record by more than 400, according to records kept by County Clerk Ellen White.
Another 736 residents had mailed or dropped off their absentee ballots, she said. A total of 29 absentee ballots would have to be hand-tallied because they were damaged or some other issue.
Altogether, nearly 48% of the county's registered voters already had voted before polling centers opened Election Day.
White said the volume of early voters began tapering off the last two weeks. She had estimated 150 voters would cast ballots Saturday, but only 90 did.
"I'm not disappointed by the numbers; I'm surprised it wasn't higher," she said. "Here at the end, we didn't have any super-high days like we had at the beginning. I think people really hit it hard the first couple of weeks of voting."
White said total turnout still will be heavy, but she wasn't as sure as a few weeks ago that Quay County would break the record of 65% set during the 2008 general election. She said it would be the highest number of voters "in a good while."
"I don't think there will be as many people voting on Election Day as they have in the past," she said. "It will be nearly impossible with the numbers we had for early voting. But I may be surprised."
White said the turnout number might be artificially low. She estimated Quay County contains about 800 inactive voters - mostly those who have died or moved away. Those will be purged from the voter rolls, but not until March.
Minus those inactive voters, turnout would have been nearly 55% before Election Day.
"I don't think it's a fair evaluation to use that higher number when those people aren't in Quay County," she said.
White said poll watchers from the New Mexico Republican Party and Common Cause would be observing the polls and the absentee ballot board Tuesday.