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Local voters discuss in-person voting choice

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Convenience and wanting to ensure their votes were counted ranked highest among the reasons why a sample of local voters decided to head to some polling locations in the county Tuesday.

Given concerns about the coronavirus, the New Mexico Supreme Court had recommended absentee voting, but had ruled that the option of in-person voting had to be allowed by state statute. The New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also urged people to vote absentee unless they needed assistance with voting to reduce risks to voters, as well as poll workers.

But many Chaves County residents opted to vote in-person either on primary election day or during early voting. The tally was 6,330 by the close of polls Tuesday night, according to the unofficial numbers of the Chaves County Clerk’s Office.

Fourteen people at three different polling locations talked about their reasons for choosing to vote in-person.

In a sentiment expressed by many, Carl Ludwig of Roswell, who voted at the Roswell Mall, which did not have any lines during the early afternoon, said he chose in-person voting to make sure his vote was counted.

“We feel some concern about mail-in ballots,” he said. “We have heard too many stories about ballots not going to the right places or not getting delivered.”

Nationally, discussions have filled the news media and social media about whether absentee voting is safe and secure. President Donald Trump and other prominent politicians have questioned the reliability and soundness of absentee voting, while other groups, such as the Brennan Center for Justice, have indicated that absentee voting has been used by more than 250 million voters since 2000 and is now the primary method of voting in five states, with negligible findings of fraud and safeguards in place to track ballots once they are placed in a mailbox.

Still, Chandra Brewer of Roswell said she has heard about missing ballots in other states and didn’t want that to happen to her vote.

“I don’t like absentee voting,” she said. “Hopefully by voting in person” there will be no problems with a miscounted or missing vote.

Josephine Rodriguez, who voted at a crowded Chaves County Administrative Center, said she might be a bit “old-fashioned” but that she just didn’t want to vote by absentee ballot.

She said poll workers were sanitizing the location and trying to keep the people in lines at a good distance from each other.

Several other people said they were aware of COVID-19 infection concerns and took precautions — face coverings and hand sanitizers — but did not feel the risk was great enough to stay away from voting centers.

Some people said the decision just came down to convenience.

“It is easier,” said Kathryn Biggs, a middle school teacher who voted at the Church on the Move polling location. She said she really didn’t give much thought about absentee voting.

“As a teacher, I am always concerned about education,” she said, “and actually doing it in-person is a good way to remind my kids of the responsibility and the privilege when their time comes to register to vote.”

A couple of people said they considered voting absentee but did not mail the application in time, but only one said that the requested ballot had not arrived by Tuesday.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.