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Local election officials discuss voting options

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Early voting at the Chaves County Administrative Center starts Oct. 6. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A number of Chaves County voters are receiving absentee ballot applications in the mail without requesting them, according to county election officials.

The forms are valid applications, but they are not coming from the county or state, according to Chaves County Deputy Clerk Cindy Fuller and Bureau of Elections Chief Casey Higgins.

They said the forms they are aware of are being mailed by political parties and the nonprofit Center for Voter Information.

“People are kind of confused, like, why do they keep getting all these applications? The Clerk’s Office isn’t sending them out, but they are approved forms and we will accept them,” said Fuller.

Higgins added that the county cannot start mailing absentee ballots until Oct. 6, so people only need to fill out one. If the application is not accepted, voters will be notified so they can remedy the issue.

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“Some people have sent multiple requests in, but we only need one,” Higgins said. “If they want to call us to see if we received theirs, they can do that.”

The deadline to send in an application is Oct. 20. Online applications also are available through the New Mexico Secretary of State at www.nmvote.org. That site also has information about voter registration and soon will have sample ballots posted.

Early voting

The same day ballots begin going out — Oct. 6 — is also the first day of in-person early voting in Area D of the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place. For the first week and a half, voting will occur Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Starting Oct. 17, Saturday voting will begin at Area D and other early voting locations will open at the Roswell Mall and the Hagerman JOY Center, with different days and hours for those locations. On Election Day, Nov. 3, 11 polling locations in Roswell, Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with voters able to go to any one.

Detailed information is available on the Clerk’s Office page of the county website, www.chavescounty.gov, or by calling 575-624-6614. The office also expects to have sample ballots within a couple of weeks.

Several voting options available

Fuller said that people can vote in several different ways during the coronavirus situation.

“We are encouraging people to do what they feel comfortable with,” she said. “Early voting doesn’t have the lines that you might encounter on Election Day, so that might be an option.”

Fuller said that all voting locations will follow state public health orders to limit the number of voters allowed inside to 25% of room capacity, which she said is about 21 people per room in Area D.

She said election workers will use personal protective equipment, which the state will supply. The Sept. 3 public health order by Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel also indicates that regular sanitizing of surfaces shall occur and that social distancing of at least 6 feet between people will be required inside and outside of all voting locations.

Fuller also said that voters should feel assured about using absentee ballots. If ballots are not filled out correctly, voters will be notified if the ballots are received early enough.

Absentee ballots are due in the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Fuller said only about 100 of 5,000 ballots sent out for the primary elections were received after the deadline, and that she feels the local post office has the capacity to handle absentee ballots, which are not sent out of state for processing if they originate in one of the three Roswell ZIP codes.

“We have never had any problems here in Chaves County,” Fuller said.

But she added that people should give the post office at least seven days to deliver mail. Anyone planning to use an absentee ballot within a week of Election Day should drop it off at the Clerk’s Office or polling location, she said.

Constitutional, bond matters on ballots

Voters in the 2020 general election can make decisions about the U.S. president, U.S. congressional representatives, members of the judiciary, New Mexico representatives and senators, public boards and commission members, two constitutional amendments and three statewide general obligation bond issues.

The first constitutional amendment would decrease the number of members of the Public Regulations Commission and would change the way they are selected, as well as define their responsibilities. The second amendment would allow the Legislature to alter the election cycles for state, county or district officers to allow for staggered terms and would codify that all newly elected people assume office Jan. 1 after being voted in.

The bond issues are Bond A for $33.92 million for senior facilities and projects; Bond B for $9.75 million for academic, public and tribal library acquisitions; and Bond C for $156.36 million for higher education facilities, equipment and projects.

A voter guide with details is available at the Clerk’s Office.

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