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Heavy turnout in New Mexico

Nearly half the state's voters have cast ballots

By Marsha Walton

Rick Romero keeps Princess warm at a rally for President Bush on Monday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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New Mexico
America Votes 2004

SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) -- The New Mexico secretary of state's office is predicting the heaviest turnout in state history.

About 46 percent of the state's 1.1 million voters have voted early or by absentee ballot, a result of heavy voter registration drives by both parties, as well as partisan and nonpartisan interest groups. (Showdown states: New Mexico)

Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron has said she does not expect all the votes to be counted Tuesday night.

"I am not expecting any problems or issues in the state of New Mexico. I do ask for everyone's patience," she said.

While most eyes focused on ballot problems in Florida after the Bush-Gore race in 2000, New Mexico had the closest results. The state gave a razor-thin edge to Al Gore, just 366 votes.

As did many states, New Mexico changed some voting procedures after 2000. Still, most voters will be using equipment they have used in previous elections -- a combination of optical scan and electronic voting machines. (New voters could make history)

Although early voting did not reveal any major problems, the state attorney general's office is dispatching about 50 lawyers and investigators to look into any claims of intimidation or fraud. Most will be concentrated in the four big population centers of Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Farmington and Santa Fe.

Vigil-Giron also announced that representatives of the state's three major political parties -- the third is the Green Party -- will be able to monitor the secretary of state's office as it examines post-election vote tallies. (Kerry gets out the vote)

"By increasing the transparency of the process in this way, I am hoping that it will further increase the public's confidence in the integrity of our election system in New Mexico," Vigil-Giron said.

New Mexico used much of the $13 million it received from the federal Help America Vote Act to update its voter registration database.

New Mexico ballots are available in five languages: English, Spanish, Navajo, Apache and Pueblo.

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