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Voices Behind The Vote: Independent And Unimpressed

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Kevin Elfering and Marla Hanno make it a point to get sample ballots at the Rio Rancho Public Library so they can do research at home before casting their votes.

Nearly a quarter of New Mexican voters this year are not registered as Democrats or Republicans. 

That includes Kevin Elfering and Marla Hanno, who have lived in Rio Rancho for ten years, much of their retirement since they moved from Minnesota. They don’t identify with either major party, and say each election season they spend considerable time watching debates and reading up on candidates before casting their ballots. 

The couple visits the Loma Colorado Public Library often; this week it was to check out DVDs, and after early voting starts on October 20, they say, it will be to pick up a sample ballot so they can do their research on all the races in their district.

“Right now, all we’ve been getting in the mail is the flyers from individual candidates. Each one is boasting what they will do in office, and you can’t make a decision based on that,” said Hanno. “Nor do we ever make a decision on ‘he’s a Democrat, she’s a Republican’ and vote that way. We are independent.”

For the gubernatorial race, Elfering says he hasn’t completely made up his mind yet, but he’s leaning toward Steve Pearce. “Mainly because [Pearce] has talked about repealing the taxes on social security benefits,” he explains, “which, for a retired couple both collecting social security, could be a pretty considerable savings. I would say it’s in the neighborhood of about $2,000 a year in savings, which is a lot of money.”

Hanno says she likes Michelle Lujan Grisham for her compassion, her ideals and her emphasis on education. But she says some rumors around Lujan Grisham’s former business practices do worry her. “I would like an explanation of all the charges that seem to be floating around,” she said.  

“A lot of the mailings we get now are derogatory,” said Elfering. “I don’t think any of these candidates would ever be proud of some of the information they put out.” Instead, he wishes candidates would focus more on the positive things they’re planning to do. “Don’t talk about all the negative things. So many of them are half-truths, so you don’t know what to believe.”

Neither Elfering nor Hanno are big fans of President Trump, which Hanno says plays into her skepticism about Pearce as a candidate for governor.

“With Pearce, I kinda do believe one of the ads that says he sides with Trump 80 or 90 percent of the time,” said Hanno, “and he probably does. It’s a party issue.”

Elfering thinks both the Democrat and Republican parties are losing their ability to see what’s important for the country. “I believe that most people are voting against someone, not for someone, and that’s wrong,” he said. “I think it’s the wrong system that we’ve got ourselves into.”


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Con Alma Health Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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