Early voting has already started in some states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. In New Mexico, absentee ballots will start going out October 6 and early voting starts October 17. KUNM’s Kaveh Mowahed spoke with Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who said folks can avoid a busy polling place by requesting an absentee ballot by October 20.
MAGGIE TOULOUSE OLIVER: The important thing for folks to know is that to get an absentee ballot, you have to ask for one. You have to submit a request, and in New Mexico you can either do that with an old fashioned paper form that you can get by calling your county clerk's office, or, visiting us at NMvote.org for a printable, downloadable version that you can just pop in the mail. But, the super easiest way is to simply go online to NMvote.org and submit an application there. You'll be asked for your New Mexico driver's license or state ID number, and that can be either current or expired, doesn't matter, and the last four digits of your social security number just so we know it's you asking for a ballot.
KUNM: Are there particulars in New Mexico that could prevent a mail-in ballot from being counted?
TOULOUSE OLIVER: When you get your ballot in the mail, along with the ballot is a set of instructions about how to fill it out, how to return it to make sure it counts. And in those instructions, you'll see that there are two envelopes. One is called your inner envelope, privacy envelope, it's just a blank white envelope that you will, once you filled out your ballot you'll put your ballot in there and then you'll put that inner privacy envelope inside the outer envelope. And on the outer envelope you'll be asked for two pieces of information: your signature and the last four digits, again, of your social security number, and that will make sure that your ballot is accepted and counted when it gets back to the county clerk's office.
KUNM: Can the voters trust that the US Postal Service is going to be reliable and fast enough for ballots to count?
TOULOUSE OLIVER: We are asking voters, you know really take heed of those mailing deadlines. Don't put your ballot in the mail after the 27th of October, if you can avoid it. That's a week before election day. And if you are in the position where you're trying to get your ballot back after that deadline, then we encourage you dropping it off at any polling location.
KUNM: Do you recommend early voting instead of absentee voting for maybe particular groups of voters like young and healthy folks?
TOULOUSE OLIVER: Obviously the safest and most convenient way to cast your ballot this election, especially in light of the pandemic, is going to be to vote absentee from home. But, I would highly recommend that if you are going to vote in-person that you choose to vote early if you have that option available close to you. All polling locations will be routinely cleaned and sanitized: all of the surfaces, all of the pens, the ballot booths that are being utilized. Obviously the six feet of social distancing will be imposed. Voters will be asked to wear a mask, a face covering if a voter isn't already wearing one. The poll workers will be wearing those as well. There will be hand sanitizer provided at every polling location. The voting machines will be regularly cleaned.
KUNM: What do you expect on Election Day in terms of turnout and staffing? And then of course, the big question everyone's wondering: how long will it take to certify results?
TOULOUSE OLIVER: Voters tend to make up their minds a lot sooner in a presidential year and go and cast that vote rather than waiting until the last day. We are always concerned about staffing, making sure that we have adequate numbers of poll officials at every polling place in the state. There still are pockets of communities that need folks. So if you're willing and you're not in the high risk group for COVID-19 and you haven't already reached out to your county clerk to offer to serve, I would ask that you please do so. Lastly, it's possible this year in New Mexico, that we get a huge number of absentee ballots in at the 11th hour. It may take a day or even two days to finish getting those ballots counted and processed. But by and large, folks should know New Mexico we will have the vast majority of those results posted on election night.
You have until October 20th to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming election through the Secretary of State's Office Voter Information webpage. The deadline to register to vote online or by mail is October 6, or register at a county clerk’s office by October 31.