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Anxious voters find long lines, grief  (NM)

The New Mexican and wire services   18 October 2008

Turnout was heavy at polling sites in Santa Fe and Albuquerque as early voting started Saturday.

In fact, waiting times were so long at a south-side Santa Fe location that some people who wanted to cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 4 election gave up and left.

And people who tried to vote downtown at the Santa Fe County administration building on Grant Avenue found the front doors locked Saturday and a sign posted that blamed the Secretary of State's Office for misinformation mailed to voters about that site.

Workers ran out of pens at the packed voting site at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, where some voters waited for more than hour Saturday morning to cast ballots.

"The line is out the door and into the parking lot," Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza said. "There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people out to vote. They're showing up in droves."

Espinoza said a brochure sent to 90,000 voters in Santa Fe County by Secretary of State Mary Herrera's office mistakenly told voters the downtown building that houses the County Clerk's Office was open for early voting Saturday. "That's really caused a lot of grief," Espinoza said. "People are getting testy. They don't deserve that and neither do I."

Frustrated would-be voters were greeted by a yellow sign posted on the downtown building that stated: "We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by the Secretary of State who may be reached at 827-3600."

The sign said the County Clerk's Office "cannot open as a voting site on Saturdays due to provisions of law," but listed the handful of locations where voters could cast ballots on Saturday. The sign also stated, "This office is open for voting Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., including lunch hour. We also will be open on Saturday, Nov. 1st from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for the final day of Early Voting."

Herrera's spokesman James Flores did not immediately return a page or a voice mail message left Saturday.

In Bernalillo County, about 2,000 people had cast ballots in the first two hours of voting Saturday at 15 polling sites, county spokeswoman Liz Hamm said.

Hamm said Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver had anticipated heavy voter turnout after the June primary, so she added sites and expanded existing polling places to accommodate more voters.

The two presidential campaigns, state political parties and several candidates held rallies across the state to encourage people to go to the polls early.

Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson traveled to Sunland Park, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Los Lunas and Albuquerque on Saturday for get-out-the-vote rallies. He was joined at some stops by congressional candidates Harry Teague, who is challenging Ed Tinsley in Southern New Mexico's 2nd District, and Martin Heinrich, who is vying with Republican Darren White in the 1st District.

Senate candidate Tom Udall, a Democrat, was to appear at several rallies in Albuquerque and the central New Mexico town of Veguita this weekend.

White also held a rally in Albuquerque on Saturday to get people to the polls early, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party said.

Rep. Heather Wilson was joined by actress Morgan Brittany, who played Katherine Wentworth on the television series Dallas, and several other women to speak to volunteers in Albuquerque, Sandoval and Santa Fe, said Ivette Barajas, a spokeswoman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

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