Los Alamos County Clerk Naomi Maestas
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The State Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered major party voters for the June 2 Primary Election.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said following the decision that although the Court didn’t agree with a proposal from her office and the state’s County Clerks for an all-mail election, voters will still have everything they need to make their voices heard.
Absentee ballot applications will be mailed to all voters registered with a major political party. Eligible voters have until May 5 to register to vote or update their voter registrations if they want to vote in the Primary Election. Voters will receive their absentee ballot applications in the mail and have until May 28 to submit them. The absentee ballots themselves will need to be received by 7 p.m. on June 2.
In-person voting will also take place and Toulouse Oliver said her office will be working with County Clerks to ensure that all polling places have the personal protection equipment needed to make in-person voting as safe as possible for all New Mexicans who choose to utilize it.
Los Alamos County Clerk told the Los Alamos Reporter Thursday that while the Supreme Court ruling was not the outcome her office had hoped for, she and her staff were planning and preparing to administer the Primary Election status quo.
“During this Public Health Emergency, I want our election workers and voters to know, my staff and I are taking every precaution possible to ensure they feel safe and welcomed at each vote center. We are also prepared to handle the influx of absentee ballots we are expecting to receive,” Maestas said.
Maestas said she strongly encourages voters to vote from the comfort and security of their homes for their safety and that of their neighbor.
“Being that we are all currently isolated, this is an ideal time to visit NMVote.org to request an absentee ballot. Applying on-line is a more efficient process, rather than waiting to receive your absentee application in the mail, and then having to mail it back to us,” she said.
Maestas said the NMVote.org is also a great tool for anyone wishing to change their party or to confirm that their voter registration is up-to-date with their current residential residential and mailing address. The last date to change party affiliation is Tuesday, May 5. Same-Day-Voter Registration will be offered at the Clerk’s Office from May 5 through May 30 for new voters and those needing to update their address. Current voters will not be allowed to change their party between May 5 and May 30, Maestas said.
Democratic Party of Los Alamos chair Catherine Ozment told the Los Alamos Reporter Tuesday that DPLA has been adapting to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 emergency since early March, in part by encouraging people to request an absentee ballot online.
“It is crucial for voters to both practice social distancing and make their voices heard, and voting by mail is the best way to accomplish that. While we would have preferred to see the Supreme Court remove barriers to mail-in ballot access and minimize the health risks of in-person voting, we are having a surge of involvement from energized party members,” Ozment said. “We will continue to contact voters and help make sure Democrats eligible to vote in the Primary Election get through all steps of the process and can safely vote by mail”.
Republican Party of Los Alamos chair Bill McKerley said he was greatly encouraged by the Court’s ruling to disallow the unsolicited mailing of live ballots as part of an all vote-by-mail election.
“I believe this is an extremely important decision in support of an issue of critical importance to all citizens, especially here in New Mexico – election integrity. This is a decision that has helped put the integrity of our Primary Election at less risk and has taken a big step towards reducing fraud in our state elections,” McKerley said. “I am grateful for this unanimous decision by the Court. Here’s to a free, legal and uncorrupted election. I encourage all eligible New Mexico voters to exercise their sacred duty to vote.”