PORTALES — Early voter turnout for the Dec. 13 special election on alcoholic sales in restaurants has been low, according to Portales City Clerk Joan Martinez-Terry.
Martinez-Terry said as of Tuesday, 105 Portales residents have voted early. There are 6,007 registered voters in the city.
“I’m not sure what this indicates,” Martinez-Terry said. “I can’t get a good feel for what the turnout will be. It could be a good thing. We were hoping having a voting center would make it better and it might eventually but for now, it’s looking like we may still have a light attendance.”
The early voting deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.
Cattle Baron Manager Richard Chambers spearheaded a petition drive in August to force a special election on the issue. Chambers said his and other food establishments are losing lots of dollars in sales to Clovis restaurants that do serve alcohol on Sunday.
Martinez-Terry said there is the possibility that many voters are waiting until election day to vote.
“I’ve asked people if they want to vote and some have said they want to wait and vote with their spouse, so you never know,” Martinez-Terry said. “I’m hopeful that the people who aren’t coming to early vote will all come out on election day.”
Another explanation for the light amount of early voters could be that many Portales residents seem torn about the decision to allow Sunday alcohol sales.
“Religion plays a big part in this community and it’s important for people to recognize how the community feels about it,” said Eastern New Mexico University senior Colin Mize. “I believe having a drink as an individual is completely different from buying large amounts of it in one go.”
Mize said he does not feel there is a problem with individual alcohol sales on Sundays, but he does think restaurants should put a restriction on how many drinks they sell to an individual.
“I personally don’t drink on Sundays,” Mize said. “The way I was raised was to never drink on Sundays, but I can see why someone else might want a drink or two with their meal on a Sunday.”
Portales City Councilor Keith Thomas said he is torn about the issue because he believes if the law passes, it will improve Portales revenue but does not know if voting for it would be the right thing to do as a Christian.
“All God asks of us is one day a week,” Thomas said. “Is it going to make you less of a Christian if you have a beer on a Sunday? This is a question I can’t answer.”
Thomas said he will not make judgment on any person’s vote, because he doesn’t know how he will vote. He said he is glad the community gets to decide the answer.
“Whatever people decide to do, I want them to make the decision that’s best for them and the community,” Thomas said. “That’s what’s important.”
Mark Vigil, owner of Mark’s and Vines Italian Restaurant, said he believes Sunday alcohol sales in Portales will benefit all of the surrounding communities.
“I feel we need to be open on Sundays because I know people come from Clovis, Cannon Air Force Base and other surrounding communities on Sundays and we’re not open for them,” Vigil said. “I think there’s people in Portales who don’t stay in Portales on Sundays, because they want to enjoy that beer or glass of wine and there are people who stay in Clovis because we don’t have that option here.”
Vigil said Vines will begin being open on Sundays as of Jan. 1, whether the law passes or not.
“If it goes through, I think it will be a great enhancement of the lifestyle options for our community,” Vigil said.