RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) - Huge lines at Rio Rancho voting centers in heavily Republican areas have Gov. Susana Martinez getting personally involved to keep voters from giving up and going home.
At 5:30 p.m. with 90 minutes to go before the polls close it was smooth sailing at most polling places around the state.
But not in Rio Rancho where five polling centers opened to serve a city of 87,000 residents.
The governor and conservative PACs have invested a lot in two key legislative races there as part of an attempt to overturn the Democratic majority in the state House and Senate.
Those are the Senate District 9 race between incumbent Democratic Sen. John Sapien of Corrales and Republican David Doyle of Albuquerque and the House District 23 contest between Republican James Smith of Albuquerque and Democrat Marci Blaze of Corrales.
The governor arrived at the voting center at Puesta del Sol Elementary School around 5:30 p.m. to encourage frustrated voters to wait it out.
In a live interview with News 13's Dick Knipfing, Martinez said she was there to encourage people to vote and to come out since they still would be allowed to vote. Water and pizza are being brought in, she added.
However, Martinez declined to raise a political issue with the decision of Sandoval County's Democratic county clerk opening five polling locations.
"I know it's a Republican area, but whether it happened here or it happened in Taos, I'd be there if we had this kind of a problem," she told Knipfing.
Waits well above two hours were reported during much of the day in Rio Rancho, but at one point it was about four hours.
"I think it's pretty discouraging to voters especially, first time voters," said josh McClure.
Katlyn Timperio was one of those first-time voters who couldn't stick around.
She just turned 18 and was looking forward to voting in her very first election.
"I was trying to vote, but the lines were just too long," Timperio said. "I have to go to school, so I didn't get to make it time."
Aerial video from News 13's Skyranger over Puesta del Sol elementary showed monstrous lines wrapping around the building. Inside the line snakes even more.
There are only five poling sites in Rio Rancho, which is in Sandoval County, even though the city is the third largest in the state.
Because the city's more than 50,000 registered voters can cast ballots at any location in the county, the county clerk decided five sites in Rio rancho was enough.
Voters say it's obviously not.
Sandoval County Clerk Sally Padilla told News 13 people in Rio Rancho had plenty of options and could have voted early or absentee.
A month ago a county election official said experience from the primary election in June showed Rio Rancho had ample polling locations.
Online from krqe.com: Rio Rancho voters herded to five voting sites (Oct. 8, 2012)
At 7 p.m. when the polls close, whoever is in line at that time will still be allowed to vote regardless of how long it takes.
To put things in perspective, Rio Rancho has the same number of polling sites as Bernalillo, the Sandoval County seat, even though Rio Rancho's population is 10 times that of Bernalillo.
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