- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The number of ballots cast in New Mexico’s Democratic presidential primary outpaced previous years because overall turnout by eligible voters from both parties was above average.

Preliminary results show more than 325,000 ballots were cast across the state - representing roughly one in three eligible Democratic and Republican voters. That’s more than in each of the presidential primaries and caucuses in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Turnout has averaged 28 percent in presidential election year primaries in New Mexico since 1996.

Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said a competitive presidential primary helped fuel turnout, with a record 37 percent of Democrats casting votes.

“I think there was a lot of interest in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race despite the news on the eve of the election that Hillary became the presumptive nominee,” Sanderoff said.

Clinton prevailed at the polls Tuesday without campaigning directly in New Mexico. She lost the state’s most populous county to Sanders but edged out the Vermont senator in other counties.

New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland pledged her delegate vote to Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, even while acknowledging that the Sanders campaign helped inspire the record Democratic turnout.

“I have nothing but love for Sanders volunteers,” she told reporters during a phone call. “I feel they played a huge role in bringing voters to the polls yesterday…I will make sure that I keep the conversation going and make sure that they are welcome.”

Among the state’s 33 counties, all but a handful surpassed average turnout. Data from the secretary of state’s office shows northern New Mexico’s Mora County had the best turnout at more than 52 percent.

The turnout percentage statewide is likely to change when final vote totals become available later this month and they’re certified by the state canvassing board. Provisional ballots and some others are not counted on primary day and are not reflected in the unofficial results.

Whether as many New Mexico voters participate in the general election depends on the tone the presidential race takes as November approaches, Sanderoff said.

“There are some people who don’t like either one of them so time will tell whether there will be a lot of people holding their nose and going to the polls and voting for their party’s candidate or whether some people will stay home because they just can’t bring themselves to vote,” he said.

There are also competitive local races in some parts of the state that could draw voters, including some legislative seats that could sway the balance of power in Santa Fe.

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