Home News Local News Voting starts this week in Chaves County

Voting starts this week in Chaves County

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Chaves County Clerk’s Office staff prepare Friday for in-person voting this week and the mailing out of absentee ballots. (Submitted Photo)

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Chaves County voters can return or cast their general election ballots starting this week.

Absentee ballots will be mailed to voters beginning Tuesday. That is also the start of in-person absentee voting, or early voting, at the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.

Area D of the administrative center will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, until Oct. 17, when Saturday voting begins and other poll locations open.

“We expect a pretty heavy turnout,” said Casey Higgins, Chaves County Bureau of Elections chief. “As of now, we have received about 3,200 absentee applications. Considering that our office did not mail to every eligible voter, that is a pretty good turnout so far.”

Chaves County had 34,593 registered voters as of Friday afternoon, Higgins said. Of those, 17,156 are registered Republicans; 9,599 are Democrats; 7,544 are affiliated with other parties, independent or “declined to state;” and 294 are Libertarians.

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What to expect for in-person voting

Tuesday is technically the start of absentee voting, whether in person or by mail, with the official start of early voting Oct. 17.

“We just call Oct. 6 voting in-person early for less confusion to the voter,” said Higgins, “because they may not understand that we are not going to be screening them — ‘Oh, you aren’t going to be here? Then you can go vote,’” she said. “It is the same process on the 17th as on the 6th. It is just technically absentee.”

All that registered voters will need to provide is their name, address and date of birth, Higgins said.

Chaves County has received a grant for personal protective equipment and other supplies related to preventing the spread of COVID-19 at polling stations. All poll workers will have masks, face shields and gloves. In addition, shields will be placed in front of workers to separate them from voters. Gloves and face masks also will be supplied for voters.

Poll workers also will be cleaning voting stations regularly, and social distancing is required by state law inside and outside of the voting location.

Higgins said that Chaves County has purchased more laptops to print out ballots this year, which she said will reduce the lines of people waiting to sign in and receive their ballots.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable to do in-person voting,” she said.

Voting absentee

by mail

With all the concern about the safety and security of mailed ballots, a new feature of absentee ballots is a barcode unique to each ballot, Higgins said. The barcode will allow voters and the Clerk’s Office to track where ballots are at all times.

Higgins said she wants to be sure that people know they only have about two more weeks to request an absentee ballot.

“The biggest change that we are trying to make sure everyone (is) aware of is, the last day that they can get that application to request a ballot in the mail is Oct. 20 at 5 p.m.,” Higgins said.

All ballots are due to the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 3. Chaves County officials are recommending that any ballots returned by mail be sent at least seven business days before Election Day.

Higgins also said the Chaves County Clerk’s Office has received calls from about eight people who have said they already mailed their ballots back. But Higgins stressed that no official ballots will be mailed out until Tuesday.

People might be confusing the application with the ballot, or voting on a sample ballot, which would have the word “sample” on it. Anyone with questions can contact the Clerk’s Office at 575-624-6614.

Higgins also asks that anything that appears to be an official ballot that was received before Oct. 6 be turned in to the Clerk’s Office so that they can determine what it is.

“If someone gets a piece of mail election-related, and they are not sure what it is, they need to call us,” she said. “There is no sense in completing something they think is a ballot and mailing it someplace.”

Also, she stresses that no one from the Clerk’s Office will call voters to say that they have not received an application or ballot.

“Some people might be trying to scam you, so don’t give your personal information. Call us,” Higgins said.

People can request an application for a ballot by calling, going to the Clerk’s Office at the Chaves County Administrative Center, or requesting one through the state at www.nmvote.org.

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

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.