State voters speak up

Gage Adair, 2, plays with his hat in the voter booth as his grandfather Glen Adair, both of Clovis, votes Saturday during early voting at the Curry County Courthouse. (staff photo: Eric Kluth)

Staff and wire reports

The marathon campaign season in New Mexico ends Tuesday. As of Saturday night 36 percent of Curry County’s registered voters had already cast their ballots: 5,274 residents voted early and 2,561 residents had sent in absentee ballots. Saturday was the last day to vote early. As election day draws nearer, here are some thoughts of voters across the state:

From Clovis:

• Jenny Blaylock, 44, of Clovis, has been exercising her right to vote since she was of legal age.

This year, she decided to vote early to avoid Election-Day lines she said she’s too busy to endure.

“I’m busy working and going to school. I had time (on Wednesday) and I didn’t want to wait,” she said.

“I’ve been paying attention to the issues and I knew how I wanted to vote, so I had no reason to wait,” she said.

She said the main reason she is voting is because she wants a say in how her government is run.

“My vote counts, it’s just as important as yours or anyone else’s,” she said.

• For Cesar Zapata, 25, of Clovis, voting this year was simple.

The Army recruiter works a mere 30 feet from an early voting site at the North Plains Mall. On Wednesday afternoon he took advantage of that short distance and voted early.

“I hear that the lines are getting longer and longer every day that goes by and the closer the election gets. I decided to go ahead and do it now rather than wait until the last minute,” he said.

Zapata, who endured no line before voting, said a tight race for the presidency prompted him to cast his ballot this year.

“I wanted to make a difference. I believe (Bush and Sen. John Kerry) are both good candidates, it’s just a matter of what you believe,” he said.

• Much like Christmas shopping, Clovis resident Don Schriefer decided to vote early this year to “beat the crowd.”
The 51-year-old and his wife Valerie on Wednesday afternoon cast their ballots at North Plains Mall.

“We wanted to get it done while we were thinking about it and get it out of the way,” he said.

For Schriefer, who is retired military, the war in Iraq is the most important issue in the general election.

“I like George Bush,” he said. “I think it’s important this time because of the war in Iraq and I think Kerry would definitely take us in the wrong direction.”

From across the state:

• Financial specialist Priscilla Romero McKie was undecided in the presidential election until she attended John Kerry’s rally in Las Cruces on Saturday.

“The biggest issues for me are education and health care, and he (Kerry) spoke about those issues, things that really matter,” McKie said. She said Kerry also caught her attention with his ideas on higher education tax credits.

“I’m a single mother and a minority, and I think John Kerry is more sensitive to that,” she said.

• Beverlee Lanning of Artesia described herself as a regular at the polls. With her husband, David, pushing her along in a wheelchair because of a leg injury, Lanning said she opted to vote early to get it out of the way.

The presidential race is one she’s paying a lot of attention to, she said.

“I’m afraid if Sen. Kerry is elected, we’ll have socialized health care,” said Lanning, a 52-year-old retired nurse. “He (Kerry) wants to change everything.”

Part of her support for President Bush comes from the group of advisers he’s surrounded himself with, saying “he’s got good people around him.”

On the Iraq issue, she said she’s not necessarily in favor of war but said the president made the right decision.

“I wish we didn’t have to go to war,” she said. “I wish people didn’t have to die.”

• Jerry Benavidez, 50, was an early voter Wednesday at the San Miguel County Courthouse in Las Vegas.

“For me, the most important issue is getting rid of Bush,” Benavidez told the Las Vegas Optic.

A juvenile corrections officer in Springer, Benavidez said that doesn’t mean Kerry will be the benefactor of his vote.

Benavidez said he will cast his ballot for Ralph Nader.

• Growing up with political parents, Barret Biberdorf of Farmington said he knows the issues and was looking forward to voting the election. He also didn’t want to wait in line all day on Election Day to cast his ballot, so he decided to vote early.

“You’re more apt to vote when you’re older and thinking about issues you probably didn’t care about as a young guy,” said Biberdorf, who did not share how he voted.

Biberdorf said his priorities have shifted to family values.
“It seems like we’re starting to get away from those (family values),” he told The Daily Times in Farmington.

• Melissa Corrigan, a speech and hearing sciences major at the University of New Mexico, participated in a presidential debate watch party on the UNM campus and attended a speech by Ralph Nader.

Corrigan, 23, said she is voting for Kerry because Bush “is governing as if I don’t exist.”

“President Bush is ignoring half the people and the country in pandering to the far right. I want a president who lives in the real world,” said Corrigan, a Democrat.

Kerry authentically cares for the middle class, Corrigan said, while Bush is only making the income gap among Americans worse.

“George Bush dogmatically ascribes to the idea that helping the rich helps everyone. There’s not basis for it in fact. We’re seeing the divide between the rich and the poor accelerate,” she said. “And I want my stocks to go up. They haven’t during George Bush.”

• Linda Fortgang of Los Alamos, a registered Republican and civics instructor at UNM-Los Alamos, brought two students with her to see the former president George H.W. Bush on Thursday.

“I think we’re becoming a diversified society and we need to become respectful of all people around us,” she said. She is voting for Bush.

One of her students, Lucy Gerrish, is from Honduras but has been in the United States for 13 years. She gains her U.S. citizenship Nov. 22.

Gerrish said she had not formed any opinions during the campaign, but decided to attend the rally. She had seen then-President Clinton at Michigan State University.

She said she thought this election is important because she thinks the world is at a crossroads after 9/11. She is working on her GED and wants to become a dental assistant.

“I wish I could vote,” Gerrish said with a huge smile.

• Couple Marcia and Jim Huse of Silver City came to the Grant County clerk’s office to vote early because “it fits into our schedule better,” Jim Huse said.

“I’m a registered Republican,” Marcia Huse told the Silver City Daily Press. “He’s a Democrat. Sometimes we cancel each other out, but not this year.”

“It won’t be Bush we’re voting for,” Jim Huse said.
Harry and Linda Bright, also of Silver City, will likely be out of town on Election Day.

“It’s such an important year to vote,” Linda Bright said, “to make sure we have the safety of our country under the great leadership of the last four years.”

• Before casting their ballots, Ed and Dawn Duff sat in the lobby of the Eddy County Administration Complex in Carlsbad and studied a sample ballot.

Both said they had made up their minds on the candidates, but were still unsure on the bond issues.

“I’m going to vote for Bush,” Ed Duff told the Carlsbad Current-Argus. “My main reason is that he is the one who is for freedom. He’s not afraid to fight for our country and do what needs to be done.”

His wife agreed.

“I’m voting for President Bush because he is not afraid to act and he doesn’t care what everybody says about him,” Dawn Duff said. “He does what he thinks is right and doesn’t back down.”

Associated Press reporter Melanie Dabovich compiled this report.