(Editor’s note: This article includes corrections and clarification from the county clerk, and differs from the article that appeared in the April 23 print edition of the News-Bulletin.)
In keeping with the state Supreme Court ruling last week, the Valencia County Clerk’s office is getting ready to send out thousands of absentee ballot applications to Valencia County voters.
In late March, in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, 27 county clerks, including Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal, petitioned the court to allow the secretary of state to pivot the primary to an all-mail election by sending ballots out to registered voters without an application requesting one first.
On Tuesday, April 14, the justices ruled that preemptively sending ballots to voters wouldn’t be legal but did order the SOS to send out absentee ballot applications to all voters who qualify to vote in the June 2 primary.
Carabajal said absentee ballot applications would begin being mailed out on Monday, April 27, as well as information to voters on how to apply for an absentee ballot online on the SOS website — nmvote.org — instead of by mail.
The application will come via U.S. mail from the Valencia County Clerk’s Office. The information voters need to provide on the application includes which election the ballot is for (in this case, a primary), the voter’s name and address as provided to the clerk when they registered to vote, the address where the voter wants the ballot sent, a signature and year of birth.
The secretary of state is covering the postage to return the applications to the clerk’s office, Carabajal said.
Since New Mexico has closed primaries, only those voters registered with a major party — Democrat, Republican or Libertarian — are eligible to vote for candidates of their party in the primary. Voters who did not declare a party will not receive an absentee ballot application.
County residents can update their voter registration information, including party affiliation, until Tuesday, May 5. Voter registration information can be updated by visiting the SOS website — nmvote.org — or by calling the county clerk’s office at 866-2080 to request a paper registration form.
Voter registration closes May 5 as well. Same-day registration is allowed during early voting, May 5-30, but only to update a voters address; changing party affiliation will not be allowed.
If a voter has already requested an absentee ballot, they will not receive an application in the mail, the clerk said. If a voter did not receive an absentee ballot application, they can request one from the clerk’s office or through the secretary of state’s website.
The soonest any absentee ballots can be mailed to voters is Tuesday, May 5.
In its ruling last week, the court also directed in-person voting to take place. Carabajal said she is awaiting a court order to allow her to reduce the county’s Voting Convenience Centers from 15 to six.
Those centers will be the Belen Community Center, Bosque Farms Public Library, Del Rio Senior Center, Manzano Vista Fire Department, Pueblo of Isleta Veterans Center and the Valencia County Administration Building.
Voters using the centers on June 2 will get a ballot-on-demand and once it is filled out, they will place the ballot in a tabulator, as usual.
Once voters receive an absentee ballot, they have until 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 2, to return it to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office.
They can return the ballot by mail or in person by going to a Voting Convenience Center on Election Day or the county administration building during early voting.
The clerk is also waiting for permission from the secretary of state to consolidate the county’s traditional three early voting locations into one — the Valencia County Administration Building, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.
Carabajal said the county has been able to recruit enough poll workers to man the early voting location and day-of locations.
“If there aren’t enough poll workers, we will use employees from the county clerk’s office,” she said, “but as of right now, we have found enough poll workers.”
There will be one early voting site for the 2020 primary, the Valencia County Administration Building, 444 Luna Ave., in Los Lunas.
Absentee in person voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Tuesday, May 5, through Friday, May 29, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, May 30.
Early voting at the county administration building will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, starting Saturday, May 16, through Saturday, May 30.
In-person Voting Convenience Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 2:
• Belen Community Center, 305 Eagle Lane, Belen
• Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop, Bosque Farms
• Del Rio Senior Center, 351 Rio Communities Blvd., Rio Communities
• Manzano Vista Fire Department, 311 El Cerro Mission Road, Los Lunas
• Pueblo of Isleta Veterans Center, 4001 N.M. 314, Isleta
• Valencia County Administration Offices, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.