No one can deny that 2020 has been an unusual year. And in the midst of the shifting landscape that is the new coronavirus outbreak, we have a primary election to contend with.
States across the country have had to determine the best, safest way to hold their primaries. Some have delayed the elections, hoping the COVID-19 pandemic will ease, while others have stayed the course, holding elections as scheduled.
In New Mexico, concerns about spreading the virus at in-person polling locations led the majority of the state’s county clerks to petition the state Supreme Court to allow them to preemptively mail primary ballots to all registered, qualified voters.
Last week, the justices ruled the law would not allow the mailing of ballots to anyone who had not specifically requested one. However the court did recognize that in-person voting poses a “substantial health risk,” and ordered clerks to mail absentee ballot applications to all qualified, registered voters.
Voting by absentee ballot has been a long-standing option in New Mexico, one that thousands of voters choose in many types of elections. New Mexico is one of the states that allows voters to fill out a ballot from the comfort of their own home without giving a specific reason.
For instance, in Indiana, a voter has to have a specific, reasonable expectation that they will be absent from the county on election day during the entire 12 hours the polls are open.
Any registered voter in New Mexico can apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail.
Since the election in June is a primary, and New Mexico has closed primaries, only voters registered as a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian will receive the absentee applications by mail. If you did not choose a major party when you registered to vote, you can change your party affiliation by Tuesday, May 5.
Also, with the applications coming by mail by default, voters should check that the mailing address on file at the county clerk’s office is correct.
When you receive an absentee ballot application, you are under no obligation to use it. The court also ordered in-person voting would continue within the parameters of whatever the current public health orders are when in-person voting begins on May 5.
Voting by mail via absentee ballot — something the courts and county clerks recommend — is a multi-step process that requires voters to watch their mailboxes and their calendars.
The application will come via U.S. mail from the Valencia County Clerk’s Office. The information voters need to provide is very straightforward — 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 date.
Drop that in the mail and, once the application has been verified, a ballot will be sent out. The soonest any absentee ballots can be mailed to voters is Tuesday, May 5.
Once you receive your ballot, you have until 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 2, to return it to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office either by mail or by dropping it off in person at one of the six voting convenience centers.
If you have questions or want to change your party affiliation or update your mailing address, call the county clerk’s office or its bureau of elections at 866-2073 or 866-2080.
Elections are challenging at the best of times. Throw in a pandemic and public health emergency, and things get even more interesting. We are encouraging everyone to take the time to check their mail, send back the application and cast a ballot by mail.
Not only will you guarantee your participation in our democratic process, but you will be protecting your community as well.