FARMINGTON — San Juan County voters' interest sparked during the last week of early voting.

But it's not certain whether that enthusiasm will transfer to a high turnout at the polls today during New Mexico's primary elections.

Nearly 2,800 voters took advantage of early voting between May 19 to June 2, said San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes. About 1,700 of those votes came during the final week of early voting.

Early voting increased about 46 percent from 2008, when 1,900 county voters cast ballots early during the primary election.

Overall, 12,388 county residents voted during New Mexico's primary election in 2008, Holmes said.

There was a low voter turnout during the most recent Farmington City Council elections, and local government officials are not predicting how many people today's elections will entice to vote.

Voters registered to the two major parties will choose party candidates for the November general election. Voters will pick the Republican or Democrat candidate for president; United States senator and representative; state senators and representatives; and several local elected officials.

The magistrate judge race and the Republican races for county commissioner district 3, county treasurer and county clerk are the most competitive local races.

"It is a competition.


But right now it is between members of the same party, so you would hope there is decorum and mutual respect," said Pat Cordell, chairman of the San Juan County Republican Party.

The race for the County Commission seat between Republicans Scott Eckstein, Keith Johnson, David Brannan and Carl Bannowsky has grown increasingly competitive in recent weeks.

"Clearly there are Republicans in support of Mr. Johnson and clearly there are Republicans in support of Mr. Eckstein," Cordell said. "I'm sure there is some division, but I don't believe it has hurt the party."

Cordell said the local Republican party is focusing its efforts on increasing voter turnout. Fewer than 1,000 voters cast ballots during the most recent Farmington City Council elections in March. The Republican party set up booths during recent festivals in Aztec and Bloomfield to try to register voters and encourage them to vote.

"All of these are important races to San Juan County," Cordell said. "Voter apathy for the Farmington City Council race is something we need to turn around."

The Democratic Party of San Juan County did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

This is the first countywide election where residents will use convenience centers instead of traditional polling places.

Twenty-three voting centers are spread throughout the county, and 12 regular polling places are open on the Navajo Nation, Holmes said. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Nine of the voting centers are in Farmington, and three are in Aztec. Shiprock, Bloomfield and Kirtland each have two voting centers.

A complete list of the voting centers is available on the county clerk's website.

"I think (voting centers) will help save money and they are convenient to voters," Holmes said.

Using the centers instead of polling places is projected to save the county about $40,000 per election because the county will hire fewer poll workers, Holmes said.

However, the savings aren't expected to be seen this year because the county purchased new equipment for the voting centers and hired poll workers to occupy traditional polling places to send voters to the correct voting place, Holmes said.