November 1, 2022

A week ahead of Election Day, early voting drops after record-breaking 2018

Increased absentee voting can’t offset the plunge in early voting from four years ago, but it easily exceeds the record-lows of 2014.

In 2018, the last midterm election, voters turned out in record numbers, led by an open gubernatorial race in which Michelle Lujan Grisham won, defeating Republican Steve Pearce.

This year, as Lujan Grisham seeks reelection, early voting dropped even as absentee voting is on pace to easily exceed not only 2018, but reach near the heights of returned absentee ballots in a midterm.

As of the morning of Nov. 1, seven days ahead of Election Day, 259,486 New Mexicans had cast their ballots, 198,624 early in-person and another 60,862 by returning absentee ballots.

In 2018 on Oct. 30, seven days before Election Day, 300,016 New Mexicans had cast ballots, 254,545 in-person and 45,471 by returning absentee ballots.

In 2014 on Oct. 28, seven days before Election Day, 145,383 voters had cast their ballots, 114,481 in-person and 30,902 by returning absentee ballots.

As of Nov. 1, 18.8 percent of registered voters have cast ballots. At the same point in 2018, 23.7 percent of registered voters had cast ballots.

While Election Day is the day with the single most votes cast, it no longer dominates the election results as it did decades ago. The last time a majority of voters cast in-person votes on Election Day rather than via early in-person voting or by returning absentee ballots was 2010. In 2018, just 36.9 percent of voters cast ballots in-person on Election Day (the rate was even lower in the presidential year of 2020, though a flood of absentee ballots was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic).

A significant number of absentee ballots are still waiting to be returned. A total of 107,143 voters have requested absentee ballots. Voters can request absentee ballots through 5 p.m. on Thursday. Absentee ballots must reach the county clerk by the close of polls on Thursday. Voters can either mail back absentee ballots, return them in-person to their county clerk or return to any polling location in the voter’s county.

If voters choose to mail back their absentee ballots, the Secretary of State advises voters to send them back by Wednesday to ensure they arrive by Election Day. 

Who has voted so far

Democrats have an advantage in votes that were cast as of Nov. 1, with 139,546 registered Democrats casting ballots, compared to 87,353 Republicans and 30,241 Decline-to-state voters. The rest of the voters are either Libertarian or minor party voters.

Democrats make up 53.8 percent of all reported votes so far, compared to 33.7 percent for Republicans. At the same time in 2018, Democrats made up 52.9 percent of votes and Republicans made up 34 percent. 

NM Political Report does not have daily data on the partisan breakdown of voters in 2014.

Republicans may be more likely to cast votes on Election Day this year than in past elections. Some Republican officials and candidates, citing conspiracy theories, say that voting on Election Day is more secure than other votes. Votes cast early or via absentee ballots are as secure as votes on Election Day.

While Bernalillo County makes up 33 percent of all voters in the state, 37.9 percent of all ballots cast as of Nov. 1 have been from the county, which includes the state’s largest city, Albuquerque.

The second-most votes have come from Santa Fe County, which makes up 10.9 percent of votes as of Nov. 1, despite Santa Fe County making up just 8.1 percent of registered voters in the state.