The unofficial results of the 2022 New Mexico primary elections were released after the election on Tuesday, June 7. Mark Ronchetti won the Rebublican primary and will face off against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who won the democratic primary unopposed. Just over 25% of registered voters cast their ballots in this year’s primaries.
Nick Allen, an out-of-state New Student Orientation leader for the University of New Mexico, was pleased to witness the primaries and is happy with the unofficial results, despite the low voter turnout.
“I feel good about the primaries, it’s definitely weird for me being an out-of-state student … I think it’s very nice for me to watch,” Allen said. “It is a low number and I think that I would like to see it higher but I understand that it’s just something that not a lot of people pay attention to.”
ASUNM President Ian May has first-hand experience with low voter turnout following his victory in this year’s ASUNM presidental election. He believes that a great deal of the disengagement is due to exhaustion and prioritization of larger-scale elections, like the presidential election.
“I think, in our country, there's a really large focus on national elections … (but) a lot of the local elections are, in a lot of ways, more important … Those types of elections have a lot of real, tangible impacts on day-to-day lives,” May said.
May also spoke about the high voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election, crediting it to a national yearning for change, but worried the lack of change since then could create further reluctance to vote.
“I think it's going to be a tough balance going forward to try and figure out, ‘Okay, how do we keep people engaged in the voting process?’” May said.
Allen believes that UNM student elections garner low voter turnout because people think it doesn't matter, similar to how he believes people view the primaries.
“I think it’s very much (similar to) how ASUNM elections go — they also do not get a lot of turnout from the student body — and I think that’s just because there is the same shared idea that it doesn’t really matter … but it does because they do create policy for the university,” Allen said.
Considering ASUNM engagement specifically, May believes that condensing elections could benefit voter turnout and is considering doing such with the executive branch.
“There's people who don't fully know what the student government does … those legitimate decisions that we’re often called in for,” May said. “Recently, (voter turnout has) gone down and we're looking at ways to restructure ‘cause I do think people get tired of elections … In previous years, (we’ve) reelected the president and the second-semester senate together, and that's something that we're looking at doing again.”
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This said, there’s no guarantee for a direct change in the ASUNM voting process, according to May.
“It's not something that's definitely going to happen by any means, but it's definitely something we're trying to find some strategies to mitigate,” May said.
The idea that national elections are the only worthwhile elections to take part in is one that Allen would like to combat.
“You’re not just voting for the president; you’re voting for people to represent you in government at the highest level, but also at a state level … There are a lot of ways that local (governments) will impact you more than the federal government does, and I think if people were made more aware of that, they would be interested and more encouraged to go out and vote,” Allen said.
May has faith that, with reorganization, many of the issues regarding voter exhaustion can be mitigated.
“Political involvement in literacy is very important for local elections and for our student government elections and for any election,” May said. “I'm not a pessimist, I (just) believe … that it's going to take a lot of effort.”
Allen believes that increased education is the best way to approach making change and increasing voter turnout on local and state levels.
“I think in America we have this idea that elections only matter every four years … and everything in between, they just kind of feel, ‘Oh, it doesn’t impact me.’ But it does impact them, and I think more people should be turning out,” Allen said.
Natalie Jude is the design director at the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @natalaroni