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Democrats dominate 1st day of voting in Albuquerque area

October 7, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2006, file photo, KRQE-TV chief meteorologist Mark Ronchetti stands in front of a "green screen" as he gives the forecast at the KRQE studios in Albuquerque, N.M. Ronchetti, a former weatherman, is competing for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. (Jaelyn deMaria/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2006, file photo, KRQE-TV chief meteorologist Mark Ronchetti stands in front of a "green screen" as he gives the forecast at the KRQE studios in Albuquerque, N.M. Ronchetti, a former weatherman, is competing for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. (Jaelyn deMaria/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democrats cast nearly half of the ballots across New Mexico during the first day of early and absentee voting, while registered Republicans accounted for about 38% of participation.

The secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that 10,157 ballots were cast statewide on the opening day of voting.

County clerks on Tuesday began distributing absentee ballots and opened their central offices to early voting. Voting convenience centers will open on Oct. 17 at hundreds of locations.

Democratic turnout was especially pronounced in Bernalillo County, the most populous metro area that encompasses Albuquerque and a key battleground in the U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Nambé and Republican former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti of Albuquerque to replace retiring Sen. Tom Udall.

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Democrats there accounted for 67% of early and absentee ballots. Unaffiliated and small party voters cast 21% of votes, and Republicans had 12% with fewer than 160 votes cast.

In addition to the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is defending a swing seat in the southern 1st Congressional District and the Democrat-led state House and Senate are both up for election.

The state’s top election regulator on Wednesday warned against false claims circulating on Facebook that the governor would order polls closed in mid-October.

“This information is completely false,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “In-person voting will be available in all 33 counties throughout the entire early voting period and on Election Day.”

Absentee ballot requests have surged across the state in response to concerns about the coronavirus and the dangers of public gatherings.

As of Wednesday, nearly 330,000 people statewide had requested absentee ballots that can be cast by mail or handed in at voting locations or drop boxes. That represents a massive increase in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the 2016 presidential election about 76,000 people cast absentee ballots — less than 10% of the electorate.

On the opening day of the 2020 election, unaffiliated and small party voters accounted for about 12% of ballots.