Low primary turnout expected

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Pollster predicts that 30 percent of New Mexicans will cast ballots

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — Nearly 924,000 New Mexicans are eligible to vote in the June primary election, but a veteran pollster expects relatively low voter turnout.

About 565,700 Democrats and 358,000 Republicans are registered to cast ballots for the primary. That’s up about 4 percent from 2006, when New Mexico last held a gubernatorial primary and it’s a 3 percent increase from the 2008 presidential primary election.

Brian Sanderoff, a longtime political observer who runs an Albuquerque polling company, said Thursday the combined voter turnout in the Democratic and Republican primaries likely will be in the 30 percent range.

Top-of-the-ticket races such as governor typically drive turnout, according to Sanderoff, although highly competitive local contests also can draw voters to the polls.

Five Republicans are seeking the party’s nomination for governor. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for governor.

In the 2006 primary, almost 195,700 Democrats and Republicans — about 22 percent of those registered to vote — cast ballots. However, there were no contested races for governor that year.

This year’s primary appears similar to 2002, when Republicans had a three-way gubernatorial contest and Richardson had no opponent on the Democratic ballot.