Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Secretary of State Issues Instruction to County Clerks to Let Absentee Voters Vote at Early Vote Sites

Carter Bundy just forwarded this to us:

If Voters Haven’t Received Absentee Ballots Yet, Now They Can Go Vote Early.

Election Protection is pleased to announce that Secretary of State Mary Herrera has issued an instruction to county clerks requiring them to allow people who requested but have not received their absentee vote-by-mail ballots to vote in person at early voting locations, including at county clerks’ offices around the state.

Due to the incredibly high number of requests for vote-by-mail ballots, some clerks have been working around the clock to send out ballots, but either through that process or issues with mail, some voters still do not have their ballots.

New Mexico Federation of Labor President Christine Trujillo said “We want to ensure that every registered voter in New Mexico has the chance to vote this year. This instruction addresses an issue that has been a significant problem in a few pockets of the state.”

Election Protection has established a hotline in English (866-OUR-VOTE, which is 866-687-8683) and in Spanish (888-VE-Y-VOTA, which is 888-839-8682) for voters experiencing any problems voting, either at early sites, by mail, or on Election Day. Voters regardless of party registration are encouraged to use this number if they have any questions about voting.

Here is the text of the instruction directly from the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections Director Gerald Gonzales:

It has been called to our attention that additional guidance is needed regarding voters who requested and were mailed an absentee ballot and having never received it, wish to vote at an early voting site.

We view the goal of the Election Code as being to enfranchise voters, and as such, conclude that a voter should be allowed to ask for a replacement absentee ballot during a flexible time period and at any authorized voting location. The additional guidance for this purpose is as follows:

Voters who have applied for an absentee ballot and to whom an absentee ballot has been mailed but who have not yet received it, shall be allowed to vote at any early voting site in the following manner:

* The voter must execute, in the County Clerk’s office, or at the alternate voting site, an affidavit stating the voter has not received nor voted the voter’s mail-in absentee ballot.
* The County Clerk or designee verifies with the absentee ballot registry at the time the affidavit is submitted that the voter was sent an absentee ballot and that it has not been received by the County Clerk’s office.
* A poll official shall then invalidate the original mailed ballot on the I Power system by reflecting it as spoiled.
* The voter will then be treated as an early voter. An absentee ballot application will be given to the voter to complete, followed by a “replacement absentee ballot” which for this purpose will be an early voting ballot like that issued to any other early voter. Once the voter has completed the ballot it will be fed through the tabulator like all other early voters’ ballots.
* The entry previously made in I Power to spoil the original mail-in ballot will assure that a voter will not be able to vote more than once through this process. If the lost mail-in ballot is subsequently received by the County Clerk, the I Power system will reveal that the voter has already voted early in person. This mail-in ballot shall not be counted and shall be handled by the County Clerk in accordance with the federal election retention schedule—i.e. retained for 22 months.
* All affidavits shall also be retained by the County Clerk in accordance with the federal election retention schedule.”

Election Protection is a non-partisan coalition comprised of diverse groups including Common Cause, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights,the National Congress of American Indians, and the New Mexico Federation of Labor, whose goal is to ensure that legitimate voters of any political persuasion have the ability to cast their votes and have them counted.

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