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County sees high numbers of early voters

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Saturday voting begins at the Roswell Mall and at the Chaves County Administrative Center, or Clerk’s Office, at 1 St. Mary’s Place. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Saturday voting, second polling site now available

An average of 840 people a day have voted early in Chaves County so far, local election officials said.

The total count stood at 7,560 by Friday afternoon, representing about 21% of currently registered voters, said Casey Higgins, Bureau of Elections chief.

That count included 5,461 Republicans, 1,448 Democrats, 621 people registered with other parties or as unaffiliated, and 30 Libertarians.

The high number was reached after only eight days of in-person voting at the Area D polling site in the Chaves County Administrative Center at 1 St. Mary’s Place, also known as the Clerk’s Office site.

But Higgins said the record-breaking began even earlier than Friday.

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“In three days of early voting in our office, we already had more voters than we had the entire time of early voting in our office for the primary,” she said.

Early voting in May during the primary saw 2,516 people making their selections at the Clerk’s Office, Higgins said. Early voting at the Clerk’s Office for the 2016 general election totaled 5,951.

Higgins added that about 4,000 absentee ballots have been mailed for the primary, and approximately 1,800 have been returned already after the county began sending them on Oct. 6.

“I think people want their voices heard,” Higgins said. “It is an important election and people are really wanting their voices heard.”

Higgins said that voting has gone well. She also noted that the county has hired someone to work at each location to sanitize throughout the day so that people will be safe voting in person during the coronavirus crisis. By state order, polling sites must enforce social distancing, face coverings and limits on people inside buildings.

According to the New Mexico Secretary of State Office, 142,000 people in New Mexico had voted early by Friday afternoon.

Expanded early voting begins

The Clerk’s Office site opened Oct. 6 and expanded to Saturdays this past week. Until Oct. 31, it will be open Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Roswell Mall site also opened Saturday at 4501 N. Main St. It will operate Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., until Oct. 31.

An early voting site at the Hagerman JOY Center at 503 E. Argyle St. will open Oct. 20, with voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays until Oct. 29.

Election Day is Nov. 3, with county voters able to vote at any of the 11 polling sites from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The list of sites is available on the Clerk’s Office page of the county website, www.chavescounty.gov.

Deadlines to remember

Higgins is reminding people that they only have until Oct. 20 to request an application for an absentee ballot.

“After that every application will be rejected,” she said. “They will have to either vote early or vote on Election Day.”

Absentee ballots are due at the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3, with ballots able to be dropped off at a polling site, at the Clerk’s Office drive-thru window or in the mail. Local election officials are recommending that people mail their ballots at least seven business days before Nov. 3.

People also can continue to register in person to vote until Oct. 31. Higgins said they can do so at the Clerk’s Office on Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or on Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To register, people will need current New Mexico identification or an identification card with some other document showing an address in the county.

A sample ballot is available at www.nmvote.org that will show the national, state and local candidates in a voter’s district, as well as the statewide issues, which includes two proposed constitutional amendments and three general obligation bonds for senior facilities, public libraries and public higher education and special schools. Information also is available by contacting the Clerk’s Office at 575-624-6614.

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/.