Three contested races for Chaves County offices will be determined, for all practical purposes, by the outcome of the primaries held Tuesday.
Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians have until 7 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their absentee ballots or cast their vote at a local polling location.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, absentee voting is encouraged by the New Mexico Secretary of State, the New Mexico Supreme Court and county officials.
Absentee ballot applications were mailed to all registered voters of the top three political parties in the state, the only people allowed by state law to participate in primary voting.
The Chaves County Clerk’s Office mailed out about 5,000 ballots by Friday, according to Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko. The last day for those to be requested was Thursday.
“If you requested an absentee ballot late — sometime this week — just be patient,” Kunko said. “If you get it Saturday or even Monday, think about having you or a family member bring it in, rather than put it in the mail.”
He also said that anyone receiving a ballot should fill it out rather than show up at a polling place Tuesday to vote.
He explained that, if records indicate that people received ballots, but they come in person to vote, they will have to sign a form saying that they will not vote their absentee ballot and then will be given a provisional ballot that requires the same information as the absentee ballot.
“So, if you get your ballot, you may as well fill it out,” Kunko said.
He said he does think that, because of the absentee ballot situation, this primary will see a lot more provisional ballots cast than in previous primaries.
“We are preparing for that,” Kunko said. “Other than that, it feels like a typical election. There are always challenges, but I think we are prepared for them.”
Early turnout and polling locations
Casey Higgins, Chaves County Bureau of Elections chief, provided the turnout numbers for early voting, which ended Saturday, and the return of absentee ballots so far.
She said that 3,621 absentee ballots had been returned by 4 p.m. Saturday. Of those, 2,126 were from Republicans, while 1,476 were from Democrats and 19 were from Libertarians.
Another 3,046 people voted at one of three early voting locations by Saturday afternoon. That included 2,627 Republicans, 414 Democrats and five Libertarians.
On primary day, the county will have 11 polling locations, open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters registered with the three major parties can vote at any location.
• Roswell Mall, 4501 N. Main St.
• Central Church of the Nazarene, 901 E. Country Club Road
• West Country Club Church of Christ, 700 W. Country Club Road
• Roswell Museum and Art Center, 100 W. 11th St.
• New Mexico Game and Fish Administrative Center, 1615 W. College Blvd.
• East Grand Plains Elementary School, 3773 E. Grand Plains Road
• Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place
• Church on the Move, 901 W. Brasher Road
• Dexter Consolidated Schools district office, 100 N. Lincoln Ave.
• Hagerman JOY Center, 503 E. Argyle St.
• Lake Arthur Municipal Schools office, 700 Broadway St.
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, three Chaves County commission seats, the county treasurer and the county clerk.
Many candidates are running unopposed in both the primaries and general election, but there are three county-level races where Republicans are vying for seats but facing no general election opponent. Thus, the outcome of the vote Tuesday will determine the race, providing the winner gets at least one vote on the Nov. 3 Election Day.
• Chaves County Clerk: Cindy Fuller, the Chaves County deputy clerk, is running against Barbara Gomez, a marketing and events professional and community volunteer from Roswell.
• Chaves County Board of Commissioners, District 3: Incumbent Jeff Bilberry of Roswell, an executive officer with a large ranching group, is facing Randy Robertson, an oil industry field supervisor.
• Chaves County Board of Commissioners, District 4: Barry Foster, an elementary school teacher and current Roswell city councilor, is facing Richard Taylor, an accountant from Roswell.
Republicans are also challenging each other for three other races that many local voters can participate in: the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Udall, D-Santa Fe; the 2nd Congressional District U.S. Representative seat held by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small; and the state District 33 Senate seat now held by Republican William F. Burt of Alamogordo. Whoever wins those races will face opponents in the general election.
Sample ballots are available at www.nmvote.org. More information is also available from the Chaves County Clerk’s Office, 575-624-6614.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.