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State announces distancing restrictions for polling places

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New Mexico Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel this week issued a public health order establishing social distancing restrictions for polling places during the fall election season.

“Election facilities must remain accessible to the public under the state’s Election Code, and as such we’ve got to ensure that everyone casting a ballot may do so safely,” Kunkel said in a press release issued Friday by the Office of the Governor. “There is still a risk of COVID-19 transmission no matter where we go. Our job is to make these facilities as safe as possible while strongly encouraging New Mexicans to take every precaution while casting their ballot this fall.”

Under the order, polling locations shall allow only 25% of the maximum occupancy of the location or four voters at any one time, whichever is greater. Polling locations that are mobile units shall allow only two voters at a time.

Polling locations shall ensure that voters do not come within 6 feet of one another, and poll officials and staff are directed to wash and sanitize their hands frequently, while routinely cleaning all surfaces and reusable writing implements, according to the press release.

Poll officials and staff are directed to ensure any voters waiting outside of a polling location maintain 6 feet of physical distance from one another and avoid person-to-person contact.

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Under the order, the secretary of state is empowered to implement the above social distancing protocols and may provide additional guidance to ensure compliance.

Information and deadlines for the 2020 General Election:

• Absentee ballots: Absentee ballot requests can be made online through the secretary of state’s website. Oct. 20 is the deadline to request an absentee ballot. Voters should mail their completed absentee ballot back no later than Oct. 27 to ensure it arrives to their county clerks before 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

• In-person early voting: In-person early voting locations open in each county beginning on Saturday, Oct. 17, and continue through Saturday, Oct. 31.

• Election Day: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, with in-person polling locations open in each county from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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