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It’s Election Day in Albuquerque

Albuquerque (Photo by Eric__I_E/flickr.com)

Albuquerque (Photo by Eric__I_E/flickr.com)

Here’s what you need to know about voting today

Ten months after Albuquerque’s municipal election season started, voters in the state’s largest city are finally heading to the polls today to select a mayor and five city councilors.

They’ll also consider 10 amendments to the city charter and nearly $160 million in general obligation bonds, and will decide whether to extend a 1/4 cent transportation tax.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At the top of the ballot is a three-man race for mayor featuring incumbent Martin J. Chávez, who is making his fourth bid for the office, state Rep. Richard Berry and former state Senate President Pro-Tem Richard Romero.

Each candidate spent the final days leading up to today’s election hitting the streets and appearing on talk radio shows in an effort to get supporters to the polls and try to sway undecided voters. There were other efforts to reach voters, including a robo-call from former President Clinton endorsing Chávez. So the outcome is likely to comedown to which candidate’s supporters turn out to vote.

Some analysts say the whisker-close race will come down to Chávez’s union support, Romero’s grassroots organizing and Berry’s GOP support.

Albuquerque City Clerk Randy Autio told NMPolitics.net many voters took advantage of early voting.

“We had a very high turnout. In 2005 we only had 3,300 early voters. This cycle we had over 10,000 early voters, and when you add on absentee voters we had a very heavy early turnout,” he said.

Autio urged voters to call the city’s 311 line or check the city’s Web site for polling locations because some locations have changed this year.

“There may have been some changes since the last election due to construction; we cannot use facilities outside of the city limits, so the ones in Bernalillo County that people used last time cannot be used,” Autio said. “There are lots of reasons why they change, and we apologize for that. It’s unfortunate that people have to check, but they do.”

Autio also said anyone who hasn’t mailed his or her absentee ballot needs to hand-deliver it to the clerk’s office by 7 p.m.

“Do not drop them at the polling locations because they will not make it downtown in time. The presiding judges are instructed not accept them because they will not make it downtown in time,” Autio said.

Photo ID necessary to vote

Voters who waited until today to vote will have to present photo identification for the first time because of a measure that was proposed by Councilor Sally Mayer and passed in 2004. Autio said almost any photo ID will be accepted.

“A government issued, or a third-party, commercial issued ID” will work, he said. “For example, a bank card would be sufficient, actually even a Costco card that has your name and your photograph on it would be acceptable.”

“The only thing not acceptable is something you generated yourself, like a photo with your name signed on the back would not work,” he said. “There has to be some sort of independent verification that somebody decided this is you and issued you a photo ID.”

Autio said he’s prepared for any problem at any one of the city’s 168 consolidated precincts. His staff and volunteers will begin counting the ballots cast at early voting locations by 7 a.m. The absentee board will be ready to start counting early this morning.  Autio said he hopes to have all those counted early.

For undecided voters — two weeks ago, an Albuquerque Journal poll found that 19 percent of likely voters still hadn’t decided who they were going to vote for in the mayor’s race — the League of Women Voters has prepared a 2009 Election Guide. And the Journal produced its own voter guide.

2009 election may not end today

If no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote today in the mayor’s race, the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes will be on the ballot for a run-off election on Nov. 24, just two days before Thanksgiving.

Since all the candidates opted for public financing this year, in a runoff election each candidate would receive a third of the public funds he received for the general election –  roughly $109,000.

St. Cyr is a contributing writer for this site and an Albuquerque radio reporter. He can be reached at peter.stcyr@gmail.com. By way of disclosure, St. Cyr is paid as a subcontractor through Mayor Martin Chávez’s campaign spokeswoman on a contract to help promote the Town of Taos that has nothing to do with the Albuquerque election. A prior version of this posting incorrectly stated that voters were deciding whether to extend a 1/8 cent transportation tax.

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