Every vote counts, candidates for public office are fond of saying.
But some who are seeking office in this year’s November election have less-than-perfect attendance at the polls.
Though District 4 City Council candidate Rebecca Romero made news this week when it was revealed she’d pleaded guilty to felony charges and didn’t register to vote until she was 32, her opponent in the race, Santa Fe Public Schools administrator Amanda Chavez, has voted only twice in New Mexico, according to voting records data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office.
Chavez, who moved back to Santa Fe in 2013, said she registered to vote at a grocery store in Albuquerque some years ago and is sure she voted more than twice but said she was “not regularly active. I’m not sure when I voted.”
She said one reason she did not vote regularly was because she “underestimated the power of voting involvement” until she began working as a school principal and began “realizing the impact a leader can have with a voice.”
According to a 2020 Knight Foundation study of the 100 million Americans who are eligible to vote but don’t, voter apathy is not uncommon. Among the report’s findings: Nonvoters say they don’t like the candidates, don’t believe their votes matter and have little faith in the electoral system.
It’s a practice that troubles those who work to create voter interest. While the League of Women Voters of New Mexico does not comment on individual candidates or their voting records, league president Hannah Burling said Tuesday, “We encourage everyone to vote in every election.”
Among those running for office in Santa Fe this year, data from the Secretary of State’s Office shows voting records range from perfect to so-so.
Incumbent City Councilors Signe Lindell in District 1 and Carol Romero-Wirth in District 2 have shown up at the polls regularly over the past 20 years. Romero-Wirth, who is running unopposed, has a perfect record in that period; Lindell missed a municipal election in 2008.
Lindell, who said she moved to Santa Fe around 2001, said she makes it a habit to vote in every election, be it for school board members or president.
Regarding her missed vote in 2008, she said, “I can’t imagine why [I didn’t vote].”
The issue of candidate voting records came up in a District 1 candidate forum at The New Mexican’s office earlier this month. At that time, when asked how often the candidates had voted in the past four elections, candidate Roger Carson said he thought he had “missed” an election.
He missed one during that period. According to the state data, Carson voted 14 out of a total of some 50 times in general, special, local and municipal elections between 1996 and 2020. Carson did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
District 1 candidate Joe Hoback voted 29 out of 50 possible times in that time period.
“Who knows why I didn’t vote whenever,” he said Tuesday.
Hoback said he was registered for years in Galisteo, where he sometimes lived to take care of his late mother, and that precluded him from voting in some Santa Fe elections.
The other District 1 candidate, Brian Gutierrez, voted 39 times between 1996 and 2020 in local, municipal and general elections. His record in voting in school board elections was a little spottier, participating in just three during that time frame.
Meanwhile, District 3 councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta cast 50 ballots between 1996 to 2020, covering every election in that time period. His one opponent, Lee Garcia, voted 26 times.
Garcia said Tuesday he did not want to make excuses for the times he failed to vote but said part of the reason may have been because he often waits until Election Day to cast his ballot. And on Election Day, his business, Garcia Tires, is open, which may have stopped him from getting out to vote, he said.
“I try my hardest to be diligent and exercise my right to vote,” he said.
On the mayoral front, all three candidates — incumbent Alan Webber, Democratic challenger JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Republican challenger Alexis Martinez-Johnson — have exercised that right regularly since at least 2004.
Webber, who moved to Santa Fe in 2003, and Martinez Johnson each voted 33 times between 2004 and 2020.
Vigil Coppler voted 34 times, including one Democratic primary election in the summer of 2006. Webber and Martinez Johnson did not cast ballots in that election, according to state records.