With in-person voting for the June primary starting this week, county emergency services personnel have developed a plan to keep both voters and employees as safe as possible from the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Valencia County Fire Chief Brian Culp said the county administration building, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas has partially reopened for in-person. absentee voting, which began Tuesday, May 5, and three early voting sites, which starts on Saturday, May 16.
On Friday, May 1, the secretary of state denied the Valencia County clerk’s request to only have one early voting location instead of the traditional three.
Early voting will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, starting Saturday, May 16. The three early voting locations will be the Valencia County Administration Building, the Belen Community Center, 305 Eagle Lane, Belen, and the Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop, Bosque Farms.
For in-person, absentee voting, the five county bureau of elections employees will be helping voters, just like they normally would.
State statute requires all county clerks to offer in-person, absentee voting prior to and during early voting in their offices; this year the BOE employees will be stationed in the county administration building lobby instead of at the far rear of the building in the clerk’s office.
County buildings have been closed to the public since March 24.
Culp said employees would be behind plexiglass barriers, wearing masks as they checked in voters and issued ballots, as well as sanitizing and washing their hands frequently, and wiping down counters and door knobs.
When early voting starts on Saturday, May 16, poll workers will be in all of the other three voting sites.
The same precautions will be taken at the early voting locations, with voting booths spaced 6-feet apart and poll workers behind plexiglass barriers wearing masks.
“We highly encourage people to come in with masks but if not, one will be given to them. That was the direction of the (secretary of state) to protect voters and employees,” the chief said. “We are making provisions for everyone working the election.
Valencia County voters who are eligible to vote in the primary election should receive absentee ballot applications by mail, which they can use instead of coming to a polling location early or on Election Day, Tuesday, June 2.
The Valencia County treasurer’s office is also partially reopened to the public to receive property tax payments. Culp said staff in that office are also taking extra precautions to clean and sanitize after people visit the office.
When someone arrives at the treasurer’s office, 501 Luna Ave., Los Lunas, there are signs outside directing them to call the office, 866-2090, to speak with a clerk to ask questions or make payments.
A receipt will be printed out and the person can either go into the office or a clerk will come out to their car.
Taxpayers can also call from home to get questions answered, make a payment or to ask the clerks to prepare paperwork before they arrive.
Property taxes can also be paid online by visiting co.valencia.nm.us/231/tax-payments and using the eNotices Online link.
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.