By Jah’lani Jones / NM News Port
With the 2020 general election inching closer, New Mexicans have an array of voting methods available to them, ensuring their voices are heard this November.
To combat the potential spread of COVID-19 by Election Day crowds, many officials are encouraging absentee voting by mail or early voting at local precincts. With those precautions in mind, county clerks and third-party non profit organizations began sending out applications for absentee ballots last month.
Last week, the Bernalillo County clerk mailed absentee ballot applications to all Bernalillo residents. Already, the clerk’s office has reported over 60,000 absentee ballot requests.
“People are being proactive,” said Bernalillo County clerk spokesperson Floyd Vasquez. He said the clerk, who oversees all polling in the county, is prepared for what is shaping up to be a busy fall of absentee voting.
Early voting — be it through early walk-in voting or absentee ballots — has been the preferred choice of New Mexican voters for years. Data from 2016 shows that nearly two-thirds of voters voted prior to Election Day, up from an already high 58.9 percent mark in 2012.
To meet the deadline for the 2020 election, applications for absentee ballots must be requested by October 20th. Registered voters can request applications online, by mail, via e-mail, over the phone, and in person. County clerk offices can legally accept absentee ballots by mail or drop-off through Election Day on Nov. 3rd.
Those who have received an absentee ballot and wish to physically cast their votes can do so at any polling location during the early in-person voting period, which began on Oct. 17 and will end on Sunday, Oct. 31.
Though New Mexicans still have the option of voting in person, some, like Albuquerque’s Ennedith Lopez have shifted their sights to alternative methods.
“I chose to go with the absentee voting method because I found it more convenient for both the voter and the poll worker in attempting to minimize contact and stop the spread of the virus,” Lopez said.
County officials recommend that those mailing in an absentee ballot do so by no later than Tuesday, Oct. 27 in order for it to arrive in time to be counted by Nov. 3.
While there have been widespread concerns raised about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to handle an influx of ballots this fall, state election officials say New Mexican voters who follow their recommended guidelines should be confident in the efficient delivery of their mailed ballots.
This comes despite the arrival of a July letter from the United States Postal Service to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver which expressed concerns regarding possible delays in 46 states, including New Mexico.
However, the letter — signed by USPS General Counsel and Executive Vice President Thomas Marshall — also included reassurance that “your voters should have sufficient time to receive, complete, and return their ballots by the state’s deadlines.”
For now, New Mexicans still have time — not just to decide on who they will vote for this November, but also for how they plan to cast their vote.
Jah’lani Jones is a reporter for New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @JahlaniJones or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.