- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Voter turnout dropped in New Mexico’s primary election, with only one in five Democratic and Republican voters casting ballots, according to official results.

The state Canvassing Board on Tuesday certified statewide returns from June 3 primary contests.

About 202,700 voters participated, representing a turnout rate of 20 percent of registered Democrats and Republicans.

That’s down from about 258,600 voters or 28 percent turnout in 2010, when New Mexicans last decided primary contests in a gubernatorial election year.

In the Democratic primary, about 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots - down from 24 percent in 2010. Nearly 5,800 fewer Democrats voted in this year’s primary contests.

About 18 percent of eligible Republicans voted compared with 34 percent four years ago when the party had a hotly contested gubernatorial primary race. The number of Republicans casting ballots dropped by about 50,000 from 2010.

The canvassing board is made up of Gov. Susana Martinez, Secretary of State Dianna Duran and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Barbara Vigil.

Final election results showed former Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones winning the Democratic nomination in District 5, which covers parts of southern New Mexico. Jones received 50.3 percent of the vote, defeating retired automotive executive Merrie Lee Soules of Las Cruces by a 128-vote margin. Jones faces Republican incumbent Ben Hall in the general election.

A close Democratic primary race for a magistrate judge’s position in McKinley County has triggered an automatic recount, and the outcome of one legislative race is being challenged.

Democratic Rep. Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces filed a lawsuit Monday contesting returns in Dona Ana County that showed her losing by 16 votes to Bealquin “Bill” Gomez of La Mesa.

Garcia has raised questions about possible voter fraud, contending that signatures on absentee ballots in the Sunland Park area don’t match the signatures of registered voters.

The secretary of state’s office also is investigating a complaint by Garcia about absentee ballots. Garcia ran ahead of Gomez among votes cast on Election Day and among early in-person voters. But Gomez won the race with a 6-to-1 margin over Garcia among absentee ballots.

If the outcome of the race remains unchanged, Garcia would be one of two incumbent legislators to lose in the primary election.

Republican Rep. Tom Anderson of Albuquerque lost by 24 votes to David Adkins, a small business owner who faces Democrat Ronnie Martinez in the general election in the GOP-leaning district.

Anderson has been a member of the House since 2003. Garcia, a retired educator, has served in the Legislature since 1997.

The board directed the recount to start later this week in McKinley County. Magistrate Court Judge Robert Baca of Gallup has a seven-vote lead over Kenneth Howard in a three-way race. Baca was appointed to the court last year by Martinez.

State law requires automatic recounts when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 0.5 percent.

___

Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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