Voters taking care of matters early

By Laurie Stone

Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Fraze said the interest for the presidential election race has encouraged a large number of Roosevelt County registered voters for this year’s election.
Fraze said there are 11,591 registered voters for this year’s presidential election. There have been 904 early voters by Friday afternoon at the Roosevelt County Courthouse and 100 early voters at the Portales Public Library, according to Janet Collins, who is an assistant in the clerk’s office and is running unopposed for county clerk.
This means that 8.6 percent of the registered voters have already voted. Collins also said there have been 695 absentee ballots sent out.
“There has been heavier traffic for early voting,” Collins said. “The more they get aquatinted to the idea, the more they like it. They like the convenience of it.”
Roosevelt County voters Randy Hill and Chris Weaver said they chose to vote early to avoid the long lines and crowds.
“I’m voting early because I don’t want to deal with the lines and because I live out of town,” Weaver said. “It’s more convenient for me to vote early.”
Still there are others who will wait to vote until Nov. 2, such as Shawn McGill, mother of three and Gary Romero, a Wal-Mart department manager.
“I’m waiting to vote because I haven’t made a decision yet between the two (presidential) candidates,” Romero said.
Collins said the office have been extremely busy and working late hours. She said despite the high number of early voters, they will still be busy on Nov. 2.
“We still do not count the early votes until 7 p.m. on Nov. 2,” Collins said. “Some of the larger counties have preliminary counting, but we do not have that option. We lock the early votes and don’t unlock them until 7 p.m. and count them along with all of the other votes.”
Collins also offered some tips for early voters when they come out to the polling places. She said early voters can vote at the Roosevelt County Courthouse or the Portales Public Library. According to Collins, the early voters can vote from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Portales Public Library.
She said anyone can also pick up booklets in the Roosevelt County Courthouse with information about the general obligation bonds and amendments which will be on the ballots. People can also go to the New Mexico Secretary of State Web site for information.
Fraze said it has been a while since the second highest number of registered voters took place in 1978 when there were 10,149. This year’s 11,591 can be deceiving, according to Collins. She said it takes four years to purge registered voters who no longer live in the county.
The other question is whether or not the registered voters will vote. There were 10,117 registered voters in Roosevelt County in the 2000 presidential election, but only 5,689 (56 percent) turned out to vote — Al Gore won New Mexico by 366 votes. There were 9,099 registered voters in the 1996 presidential election, but only 5,915 voters (65 percent) turned out to vote.

PNT Staff Writer Tony Parra contributed to this report.