Chaves County officials are reporting strong early voting and in-person absentee voting participation in the primary elections, as the second of its early voting sites opened Saturday.
“Early voting is going smoothly,” said Casey Higgins, Bureau of Elections chief for Chaves County. “We are on track to have a much higher turnout for this election than we’ve seen in previous primary elections.”
New Mexicans have been encouraged to vote by absentee ballot this year, given concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver stressed that during an online press conference Friday organized by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
“Please do not go to a polling place unless you absolutely have to,” Toulouse Oliver said.
She said that many poll workers are older and many who must go to polling locations to have in-person assistance voting have health concerns.
“What we want to do is protect our polling places — our early voting and in-person voting places — the people who go there to vote as well as the people who are volunteering.”
The Secretary of State’s office has sent out about 130,000 absentee ballots to people registered with the three major parties in New Mexico (Democratic, Libertarian or Republican), the only people allowed to vote in state primaries. People can request them until May 28 from their county clerk’s office or from the state at www.nmvote.org.
As much as in-person voting is discouraged at this time, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in response to lawsuits that it does not have the authority to order an all-mail primary election. Polling locations are therefore allowed to operate.
Higgins said that, for Chaves County, 20,349 applications for absentee ballots have been mailed out by the New Mexico Secretary of State or the Chaves County Clerk’s Office. The local office has mailed out 2,551 ballots, 1,470 to Republicans, 1,054 to Democrats and 27 to Libertarians.
On May 5, Chaves County opened its first polling site in Area D of the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.
“Our poll workers are doing a great job at keeping the voting area clean and safe for our voters,” Higgins said.
A second polling location opened Saturday at Berrendo Elementary School, 505 W. Pine Lodge Road.
By early Saturday afternoon, a total of 1,200 people had voted at either Area D or Berrendo Elementary. That included 1,030 Republicans, 169 Democrats and one Libertarian.
Early voting runs until May 30. The Berrendo Elementary site is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Saturday voting at Area D is also available now until May 30. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
A polling site at the Hagerman JOY Center, 503 E. Argyle St., will be open May 19, 21, 26 and 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Primary election day is June 2, which is the day absentee ballots are due in the clerk’s office to be counted. For those not voting by absentee ballot, 11 polling locations in the county will be available.
On the ballot are candidates from the three major parties for U.S. president, the U.S. Congress, state and district judicial seats, state public commissions, state senators and representatives, the District Attorney for this area, county commissioners, the county treasurer and the county clerk.
Contact the Chaves County Clerk’s Office, 575-624-6614, www.co.chaves.nm.us, for more information. Sample ballots are available at www.nmvote.org.
To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.