By Andy Lyman
Election Day is a month and a half away and New México’s Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver wants voters to know the state’s election process works and is safe and secure.
Over the past several weeks, there has been speculation from President Donald Trump and the Republican Party that voting by mail could result in widespread voter fraud. Questions about how secure mail in ballots are is nothing new. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a push by many to encourage voters to mail in their ballots instead of showing up in person to vote.
Toulouse Oliver told New México Political Report that she is confident in both her staff and the county clerks’ ability to accurately and efficiently process ballots on Election Day and even the days leading up to it.
“I think they should know that their election officials, whether it’s the Secretary of State’s Office or the county clerks, are all working incredibly hard to make sure that this is a safe, secure election where no voter has to choose between their health and casting their ballot.”
Maggie Tolouse Oliver, NM Secretary of State
National political rhetoric has also seemed to create confusion in New Mexico whether mailing in a ballot is safe. Trump has expressed his concern with mailing in ballots, yet he has voted by mail in Florida, where he is registered to vote. Further, the Republican Party of New México has sent out at least one batch of mailers, encouraging voters to request an absentee ballot and vote in support of Trump. Toulouse Oliver said there is not much difference between “mail-in voting” and “absentee voting” except that in New México, an absentee ballot has to be requested by the voter.
NM Political Report spoke with Toulouse Oliver earlier this week to try and clear up any confusion about this year’s election and whether or not we may see result delays in the state.
First off, I’m hoping you can clear up some confusion with the term absentee versus mail and voting. Is there a difference in New México? And if so, what is it?
There’s really not a difference. An absentee ballot is a mail-in ballot, or at least it’s a ballot that’s mailed to you by the county clerk. We do have some elections in New México in which a ballot is automatically mailed to the voter. That would be a universal vote by mail or “all mail election.” However, absentee ballots have to be requested first by the voters, that’s the only difference.
Can you explain some of the deadlines for absentee voting and what voters need to know in order to make sure they get their vote counted this year?
Applications for an absentee ballot can be accepted now. However, the deadline to submit an application for an absentee ballot is the 20th of October. So obviously, folks need to get their applications in before or by then, no later. Ballots will begin being mailed to voters on October 6. So, if you submit your application today, and the clerk processes it you’re still not going to get a ballot until they begin to be mailed out on October 6. Then, we’re advising voters not to put a ballot back in the mail after the 27th of October because the postal service is recommending a week, a seven day turnaround time, for any piece of mail. That’s part of why we moved the deadline to apply for a ballot back to October 20. That would allow a clerk enough time to mail the ballot to the voter and the voter enough time to mail it back so that it will make it to the clerk’s office in time.
Just to be clear, when we’re talking about deadlines and when we use the term “received by,” is it important for voters to know that it has to literally be in the clerk’s office by that time?
We don’t follow the postmark here in New México. A ballot has to be received by the county clerk, either in the office or at a polling location, by 7 p.m. on Election Day. And the reason we are recommending not putting a ballot in the mail after October 27 is, again, so that it has the time to get to the county clerk. During the week before Election Day, we are recommending dropping the ballot off at a polling location or the clerk’s office directly.
There was a notice sent out by the U.S. Postal Service with tips for absentee voting. Is that something people can use as reliable advice?
In New México, the postcard is accurate. It’s very general information. And we, during the special session this summer, designed these deadlines around the Postal Service recommendations. So, everything does line up in terms of that.
What else do you want voters, whether absentee or in person, to know about the upcoming election?
I think they should know that their election officials, whether it’s the Secretary of State’s Office or the county clerks, are all working incredibly hard to make sure that this is a safe, secure election where no voter has to choose between their health and casting their ballot. That they’re working over-time to provide abundant options for voters to cast their ballots and to get that information out to voters about how, where and when to vote. And that inevitably there are always challenges in an election and there’s no such thing as a perfect election. But, by and large, between the people running the process and the actual process to vote here in New México, which we get extremely high marks for in comparison to other states, that we’re going to have just that: A safe, secure election with integrity that voters can feel good about, at least in terms of the integrity of the election process.
For voter information and voter registration in New México: sos.state.nm.us.
Andy Lyman is a Reporter with New México Political Report. This story was originally published by NM Political Report. Read the full article at nmpoliticalreport.com.
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