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Election Regulators And USPS Confident In N.M.'s Mail-In Voting Plan

Nash Jones
Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover stands in front of Albuquerque's Main Post Office on Aug. 18, 2020

The Postal Service is experiencing delays as we approach a November election that may see an unprecedented number of ballots cast by mail. Some voters are worried, but both the U.S. Postal Service and New Mexico election regulators say voters should feel confident dropping their ballots in the mail. 

Forty-six states and Washington, D.C. were warned by the Postal Service last month that their election plans wouldn’t completely work, given how long it takes to deliver mail. New Mexico was among just four states that got no objection to its election plan.

Ken Fajardo, the President of the Postal Workers Union in Albuquerque, says that while USPS has given the OK, he’s still concerned about rural towns. “You have these small communities throughout New Mexico where the mail arrives at a later time,” he said. “And if there’s that lag, their votes might not count.” 

Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover says she’s not worried. “I think it’s as safe as before,” she said. “I’m going to mail mine. But for people that are afraid, we will have drop-off spots.”

Alex Curtas, spokesperson for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, says New Mexico has been “ahead of the curve” with election policy for a long time, and it makes sense the state ended up on the good list. “The deadlines that we altered during the recent special legislative session in June really contribute to that,” he said.

During the special session, lawmakers passed a temporary rule allowing County Clerks to send out absentee ballot applications to voters. According to Curtas, the largest counties – including Bernalillo, Doña Ana, and Santa Fe – are doing this. The applications are due back two weeks before Election Day, on Oct. 20. Voters who don’t automatically receive an application can request one from their County Clerk or submit one online via the Secretary of State’s website.

Absentee ballots will be sent out to voters who request one beginning Oct. 6. Voters who want to cast their ballot by mail should send them a week before Election Day, Oct. 27, according to New Mexico’s USPS-approved timeline. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3, to be counted, regardless of postmark date.

Once a voter mails their ballot, Curtas says they can track its status online to ensure it arrives without issue by entering basic identifying information as they might to check their voter registration.

Those who miss the mail-in deadline or would prefer to skip the postal service altogether can drop their ballot off at the County Clerk’s Office or any election polling location during early voting or on Election Day. Stover says there will be separate areas at Bernalillo County polling places for those voting and those dropping off absentee ballots.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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