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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for New Mexico Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 20, 2020
Published: August 20, 2020

This is part of the Bren­nan Center’s Toolkits for Activ­ists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Polit­ical Context  |  What’s in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Admin­is­ter­ing an elec­tion under pandemic condi­tions requires under­tak­ing steps to keep voting access­ible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the prob­lems Covid-19 poses, what prepared­ness meas­ures New Mexico has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some polit­ical context for your advocacy.


Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local offi­cials have a lot of respons­ib­il­ity over elec­tions. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state offi­cials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we high­light some examples of changes that local elec­tions offi­cials can also make with this symbol:🔸


Polit­ical Context

Below is a list of the relev­ant offi­cials and inform­a­tion about the legis­lat­ive session.

Governor: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)  

Secret­ary of State: Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D)

Legis­lature: House (D) Senate (D)

Legis­lat­ive Session: The legis­lature last adjourned on June 22, 2020. Either the governor or the legis­lature can call a special or extraordin­ary legis­lat­ive session.

Local Elec­tions Offi­cials: In New Mexico, county clerks share respons­ib­il­it­ies for admin­is­ter­ing elec­tions. You can look up indi­vidual county clerks here.

What New Mexico Has and What’s Needed

Three prior­it­ies. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elec­tions systems for success during a pandemic: regis­tra­tion, mail voting, and in-person voting.

Regis­tra­tion

Covid-19 may disrupt the tradi­tional ways Amer­ic­ans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or regis­ter­ing at govern­ment agen­cies. In the crucial weeks before the regis­tra­tion dead­line, postal service disrup­tions may lead many regis­tra­tion forms to arrive at elec­tion offices after the dead­line.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures New Mexico Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter regis­tra­tion
  • Voter regis­tra­tion until the Saturday before Elec­tion Day at County Elec­tions Offices

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend online and mail voter regis­tra­tion dead­lines based on condi­tions in the state
  • Voter regis­tra­tion on Elec­tion Day

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previ­ous elec­tions. Allow­ing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Elec­tion Day and decreases the expos­ure risk to Covid-19.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures New Mexico Already Has Taken:

  • All voters can vote by mail without an excuse
  • No ID require­ment to vote by mail
  • No notary or witness require­ment for return of mail ballot
  • Online tool for request­ing an absentee ballot
  • Provides pre-paid post­age for voting by mail
  • Provides post-elec­tion notice and cure oppor­tun­ity for miss­ing signa­tures on absentee-ballot envel­opes

Changes Still Needed:

  • Accept late-arriv­ing ballots post­marked by Elec­tion Day
  • Send absentee-ballot applic­a­tions to all voters who have not yet applied🔸

In-Person Voting

Even with expan­ded mail voting oppor­tun­ity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disen­fran­chise voters without Inter­net and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accord­ance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures New Mexico Already Has Taken:

  • In-person early voting
  • Vote centers on elec­tion day

Changes Still Needed:

  • Ensure suffi­cient polling places are open and resourced on Elec­tion Day🔸
  • Open more in-person early voting loca­tions🔸
  • Take proper public health precau­tions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold train­ing sessions for polling-place work­ers well in advance of Elec­tion Day, so that elec­tion offi­cials can better anti­cip­ate prob­lems with staff­ing and logist­ics🔸
  • Increase access to curb­side voting at polling loca­tions

Advocacy Focus: Protect­ing Polling Places

No matter how prepared New Mexico is as a matter of policy, elec­tions offi­cials and advoc­ates must stay vigil­ant about ensur­ing safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for every­one all the way through Elec­tion Day. Here are some import­ant things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in New Mexico and what rules govern the process:

  • State law allows Boards of County Commis­sion­ers to create addi­tional polling places for voter conveni­ence and access­ib­il­ity.🔸
  • Local elec­tion offi­cials are oblig­ated to protect against crowding at polling places.🔸
  • Changes to or consol­id­a­tion of polling loca­tions on Indian/tribal/pueblo land may not occur without writ­ten consent of the Indian nation/tribe/pueblo.🔸
  • If, as a result of public health concerns, voters registered within an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo are unable to leave the Indian nation, tribe or pueblo during the time when voting occurs, at least one polling loca­tion must be located in the Indian/tribal/pueblo land.🔸
  • State law requires the Secret­ary of State to procure suffi­cient PPE and sanit­iz­ing supplies for polling loca­tions.
  • State law outlines proced­ures whereby the Secret­ary of Health can issue public health orders regard­ing the conduct of the 2020 General Elec­tion.
  • In the event that current year balances in the elec­tion fund do not cover the costs of elec­tions, the secret­ary of state may apply to the state board of finance for an emer­gency grant to cover those costs.

Key Dates for New Mexico Elec­tions

  • May 5, 2020: Dead­line to register to vote for the Primary Elec­tion
  • June 2, 2020: Primary Elec­tion Day
  • Octo­ber 6, 2020: Dead­line to register to vote for the General Elec­tion
  • Octo­ber 6, 2020: First day of in-person early voting at county clerks’ offices for General Elec­tion
  • Octo­ber 17, 2020: First day of expan­ded in-person early voting for General Elec­tion
  • Octo­ber 31, 2020: Last day of in-person early voting for General Elec­tion
  • Novem­ber 3, 2020: General Elec­tion Day