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New Mexico voting starts to pick GOP challenger for governor

May 10, 2022 GMT
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks Connie Guinn and her granddaughter, Bella Guerrero Munoz, at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, Monday April 25, 2022. The Calf Canyon Fire has forced the evacuation of Guinn and her family, from Laboux, and many residents of San Miguel and Mora County. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks Connie Guinn and her granddaughter, Bella Guerrero Munoz, at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, Monday April 25, 2022. The Calf Canyon Fire has forced the evacuation of Guinn and her family, from Laboux, and many residents of San Miguel and Mora County. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks Connie Guinn and her granddaughter, Bella Guerrero Munoz, at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, Monday April 25, 2022. The Calf Canyon Fire has forced the evacuation of Guinn and her family, from Laboux, and many residents of San Miguel and Mora County. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks Connie Guinn and her granddaughter, Bella Guerrero Munoz, at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, Monday April 25, 2022. The Calf Canyon Fire has forced the evacuation of Guinn and her family, from Laboux, and many residents of San Miguel and Mora County. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, talks Connie Guinn and her granddaughter, Bella Guerrero Munoz, at the emergency evacuation center in Las Vegas, Monday April 25, 2022. The Calf Canyon Fire has forced the evacuation of Guinn and her family, from Laboux, and many residents of San Miguel and Mora County. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Early voting started Tuesday across New Mexico ahead of the June 7 primary Election Day to determine the Republican nominee for governor and Democratic nominees for attorney general and other statewide offices.

Election officials began mailing absentee ballots to local voters and county clerk’s offices opened their doors to in-person voting. Expanded early voting begins May 21 at more polling locations.

Five Republicans are vying for the nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as she seeks a second term. They include former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block.

Democratic voters will select a nominee for the state’s top law enforcement post as Attorney General Hector Balderas completes his second term and term limits prevent him from serving longer. Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez is competing against lawyer and State Auditor Brian Colón, who is also from Albuquerque. The winner will compete against Republican attorney and U.S. Marine veteran Jeremy Michael Gay of Gallup.

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New Mexico requires affiliation with a major party in order to vote in a primary.

But recent changes in state election law make it easier for unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary if they chose to affiliate with a major party, even briefly.

Under same-day voter registration procedures, people who belong to minor parties or decline affiliation can still participate in the statewide primary by picking a major party affiliation on site at election-day polling places, county clerks’ offices and some early voting locations.

State election regulators have said that the registration-update process can take as little as five minutes and is reversible after people vote in primaries.

People already registered to vote for major parties — Republican, Democratic or Libertarian — are prohibited from switching parties during the election period that lasts from Tuesday through June 7.

People who decline to state party preferences or belong to minor political parties account for nearly one-fourth of registered voters in New Mexico.