Voters head to the polls in Taos County

Morning turnout in primary election slow but steady in some precincts


Polls opened at 7 a.m. for the primary election Tuesday (June 5).

Bernice Valerio, and her co-helpers in Precinct 19 arrived at 6 a.m. to take up their positions at the table in the Ranchos Elementary School gym. All day today, they will to check off voters as they come in and pick up their ballots.

"I've been doing this for 34 years," said Valerio, a Republican. "It's fun. I like chatting with people." 

Her husband Armando Valerio, also a Republican, has helped out for a few years.

So have Bernice Valerio's sister Cindy Jeantette and her husband Peter, both Democrats. Peter Jeantette was monitoring the ballot box as people put their ballot in to have their vote tabulated. 

Yes, they laughed, they do have interesting dinner conversations around politics. 

By 8 a.m., only about 15 of the 1,180 registered voters in the precinct had shown up to vote. Most of those registered are Democrats although there's a handful of Republicans and at least one Liberterian. 

They said it isn't unusual for far fewer voters to turn out for the primary election than the general one in November.

Seated at the table with them was newbie poll worker Martín Duran, serving as the precinct judge. "We inducted him this morning," quipped Peter Jeantette. 

Bernice Valerio meanwhile was on the phone ordering LotaBurgers for everyone. "You want green chile?" she asked.

Every precinct in the county tries to have both Republicans and Democrats help at the polling places. Armando Valerio said back in the day, people from each party would compete to see who brought the best food for poll workers. 

Across the gym seated at the polling table for Precinct 34, precinct judge Daphne Mondragon said, with luck, they hope at least 200 of their 663 registered voters cast their ballots. She, her husband Rick and son Hugh, all three Republicans, were at the table with lone Democrat Roberta Garcia.

Hugh Mondragon was experiencing his first time as a poll worker. It will be a long day by the time he's done, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Election day in the small communities surrounding Taos is as much social gathering as it is civic duty.

A mile or so south of the Ranchos school gym, a steady trickle of voters were stopping by the Talpa Community Center, once a school, to cast their ballots in Precinct 21. The precinct has 883 registered voters. By 8:30, about 28 voters had stopped by.

Lloyd and Grace Rivera stopped by to vote and joked with the poll workers. 

Norman and Ruby T. Martinez were the Republicans helping out at the table. "Proud ones," Norman Martinez said emphatically.

Democrat Barbara Santistevan, the precinct's judge for 27 years, had roped her daughter Valerie Loera into helping out four years ago. "I'm going to be stuck with this when she decides to leave," Loera joked. "But it gives me a break from the kids."

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