- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico is seeing a surge in early voting among Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, as Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders compete in the final round of state primaries.

Statistics provided Friday by the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office show that the number of early and absentee votes already exceed totals in previous presidential election cycles for both major parties. The trend was most pronounced among Democrats, with about 10 percent of registered party members voting before Friday, versus 8 percent of registered Republicans.

In all, more than 88,000 early and absentee ballots were cast before Friday, versus 85,000 in the entire 2012 primary. Early voting wraps up Saturday, with absentee ballots due Tuesday.

Albuquerque political consultant Bruce Donisthorpe said it is too soon to tell whether the uptick in early voting will translate into a bigger overall turnout. He said Sanders in particular is pushing for a greater-than-average turnout that includes young voters.

About 29 percent of registered Democrats voted in the 2008 primary when then-Sen. Barack Obama already had prevailed against Clinton.

Early voting is up sharply in and around New Mexico’s largest metro area. Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Friday her office had recorded nearly 34,000 people casting early ballots - almost twice what it was four years ago.

She said the Clinton-Sanders race appears to be driving turnout.

“Among the early voters, about 70 percent are Democrats so we’re definitely seeing that turnout being generated by the presidential primary,” said Toulouse Oliver, who is running for secretary of state in the fall general election. “Almost 60 percent of absentee voters are Democratic ballots as well.”

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