BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
“Have a voting plan,” advised Los Alamos County Clerk Naomi Maestas when speaking to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos via Zoom on Sept. 22. Maestas, who has served in the Clerk’s office since 2005, also urged voters to “bring your patience” as the Clerk’s Office strives to provide safe voting options during the Covid-19 crisis. The ballots are two pages long this year with elected officials, judicial retentions, and constitutional amendments and bonds to consider, another reason to plan ahead and to be patient in line if voting in person.
Maestas explained that there are three ways to vote this year: absentee ballot by mail, for which an application is first required; in-person early voting; and in-person voting on Election Day, Nov. 3 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building, the Los Alamos County Golf Course Community Room, and White Rock Town Hall. So far 3500 applications for absentee ballots have been processed with approximately 150 ballots sent to registered Los Alamos military and overseas voters.
With an increased number of absentee ballots expected this year because voters are following the “stay at home to vote” option and because there is particular interest in the election, Maestas expects a significant increase in absentee ballots. She said she is grateful for the good working relationship she and Los Alamos Postmaster Jim Hunter have shared for many years.
With a full-time staff of five and as many as two student interns, the County Clerk’s Office has arranged for a drive-up ballot drop-box to be available beginning Oct. 12. The box, which will be outside the main entrance of the Municipal Building, will be manned and secured. The Los Alamos Fire Department has arranged to provide a temporary shelter in inclement weather. There will be no overnight drop-off available, as the box will be moved indoors and the ballots secured in a locked ballot box in a locked fireproof vault.
New Mexico state law stipulates that Los Alamos County, based upon its number of 14,500 registered voters, is allowed to begin counting absentee ballots five days before the general election. The Absentee Board compares each voter’s name and the last four digits of the voter’s social security number with the registry of current eligible voters. Maestas added that, “New Mexico verifies that absentee ballots are signed, but does not verify if the signatures match what is in the system.” To add signature verification to voting services, the State of New Mexico will need additional funding for the software that will allow ballot comparison to voters’ signatures from several state sources such as Taxation and Revenue and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Also, New Mexico is not a “postmark state,” meaning that an absentee ballot must be received in the Clerk’s office by Nov. 3 at 7:00 p.m. regardless of the date it is postmarked.
Maestas noted that voters’ names are removed from the registration through a purge process done in every odd-numbered year at either the request of the voter, through obituaries, or through transfers to other counties or states.
So, please plan ahead, study the ballot, be patient, and remember that campaigning is not allowed within 100 feet of any voting site on Nov. 3.
For detailed information on this year’s general election, including sample ballots and relevant dates, please visit www.NMVote.org or www.losalamosnm.us/clerk. You may also call the County Clerk’s Office at 662-8010.