MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT! A MESSAGE TO ABSENTEE VOTERS IN DOÑA ANA COUNTY

MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT! A MESSAGE TO ABSENTEE VOTERS IN DOÑA ANA COUNTY

Applying for an absentee ballot means the voter has made a choice not to visit the polls, and Doña Ana County Clerk Rita Torres said voters who change their minds will encounter problems if they try to enter a voting booth on Election Day.
With record numbers of voters applying for absentee ballots this year, Torres said her office is concerned about voters who may not understand the state law and its application regarding absentee voting procedures. More than 7,000 voters in Doña Ana County have requested absentee status this year, up about 200 percent from the 1996 elections.
Torres said she expects absentee-voting applications to continue coming in, even though the deadline for her office to mail out absentee ballots is 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 29.
Voters who pre-selected the option of absentee balloting and then show up at the polls will not be able to vote unless they have not yet received their absentee ballots from the clerk’s office. In those cases, each voter will have to fill out a sworn affidavit stating that s/he has neither received the ballot nor already voted. At that time, the voter will be permitted to fill out a paper “emergency ballot,” which will be forwarded by the clerk to the Canvassing Board to be tallied separately.
“We want to avoid a problem with counting emergency ballots,” Torres said, “by making sure people understand their obligations once they receive an absentee ballot in the mail. If a large number of absentee-voting recipients come to the polls, they’re going to be frustrated and the election results could be delayed.”
In order to minimize confusion with the elections less than a week away, Torres offered the following checklist for absentee-ballot recipients:
* Fill out your paper ballot now and put it back in the mail or hand-deliver it to the County Clerk’s Office. To be counted, these ballots must be received (not merely postmarked) at the clerk’s office by 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3.
* If you have not yet received your ballot, come in person (and with proper identification) to the Doña Ana County Courthouse on or before 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2, to fill out a replacement absentee ballot, or go to the polls on Nov. 3 and complete an affidavit of non-receipt, so that you can fill out an “emergency ballot.”
* Don’t go to the polls and expect to enter a voting booth. All voter rolls are being updated daily to indicate which voters have opted for absentee and early voting privileges. By law, voters who have been issued absentee ballots cannot be permitted to enter a voting booth on Nov. 3.
“If everyone does their part to return absentee ballots in a timely manner,” Torres said, “the use of emergency ballots will be reduced, and the election results should be known quickly. Our commitment is to make sure that all eligible voters understand the law and are given the opportunity to cast their votes in a convenient manner. If you have any questions, please call my office at (505) 647-7429.”
As of Friday, Oct. 23, Torres said the clerk’s office was completely caught up with the mailing of absentee-voting materials and is now providing 24-hour turn-around on all applications. She warned, however, that slow mail service in some parts of the county may present problems for some voters. She recommends that any voters who have not yet mailed in their ballots should hand-carry their ballots to the courthouse to assure that each absentee vote is counted.