Multiple candidates spark voter interest

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Multiple candidates led to strong voter turnout in Fort Sumner and Melrose on Tuesday.

Fewer candidates likely led to low voter turnout in Clovis and Texico, officials said.

In Fort Sumner, 53 percent of voters turned out, the region’s highest participation, with Melrose chalking up 38 percent. In Clovis, 7 percent of voters made it to the polls; in Texico, it was only about 6 percent.

Voter turnout in Fort Sumner increased by 17 percent this year over the last election, City Clerk Ron Sena said.

Fort Sumner Mayor-elect Juan Chavez said voter interest was sparked, and turnout was heightened in his city, because there were many candidates running for only three positions. Thirteen candidates were vying for two city councilor positions and a mayor seat.

And salary raises for Fort Sumner’s mayor and councilmen may have led to the surplus of candidates in the city. The two commissioners elected and the Fort Sumner mayor will each get paid $300 more per month than previously. Commissioners will receive $400 a month, the mayor will make $500 per month, and each will attend one meeting monthly, Chavez said.

In a small community of 432 registered voters, many in Fort Sumner are friends and family of the candidates, which contributes to the increase in turnout this year, Chavez said.

And a recent recall election for De Baca County’s last sheriff, Gary Graves, may have sparked voter interest in the community and led to an increase in turnout, Chavez said.

In Clovis, with 16,402 registered voters, 16 percent fewer voters voted Tuesday than in the last municipal election in 2004, said City Clerk LeighAnn Melancon.

Juan Garza, incumbent Clovis commissioner for District 1 who was re-elected Tuesday, thinks voters weren’t turned on by issues on the ballot.

“If there would have been something big (on the ballot) like the issue with alcohol sales on Sunday, maybe people would have come out,” said Garza, who also owns a local restaurant.

Garza, who ran unopposed, said voters aren’t as interested in unopposed elections.

Voter turnout in his district was the second lowest citywide, at a little over 4 percent, according to Melancon.

Also, candidate numbers and voter turnout appear connected in Texico and Melrose.

Texico City Clerk Carolyn Johnson said more voters typically turn out when elections are contested. In Texico, each race on the ballot was unopposed.

Conversely, in Melrose more candidates ran than usually do, and voter turnout was higher than in previous years, according to the Melrose City Clerk’s office.

Fast facts

Registered voters and voter turnout in local municipal elections, according to city clerks:
• Melrose — 490 registered voters; 186 voters or 38 percent turned out
• Clovis — 16,402 registered voters; 1,148 voters or 7 percent turned out
• Fort Sumner — 432 registered voters; 229 voters or 53 percent turned out
• Texico — 457 registered voters; 28 voters or 6 percent turned out