There are several ways you can can vote:
- vote in person at your polling place on Election Day (November 3),
- vote early (before Election Day) in person, or
- vote by absentee ballot.
This message explains the process for voting by absentee ballot
First, a quick clarification on terminology. What we’re talking about here is completing your ballot at home and then returning it by mail or hand-delivery, rather than voting in person at a polling place. There’s been some confusion about “absentee” ballots and “mail-in” ballots, but the two terms refer to the same thing. Absentee ballots are safe and secure, so don’t hesitate to vote that way if you want to avoid going to the polls to vote in person.
Do I have to prove that I can’t vote in person in order to get an absentee ballot? No. Any registered voter who chooses to vote by absentee ballot can do so.
How do I get an absentee ballot? New Mexico does not send ballots automatically to all registered voters. If you wish to vote by absentee ballot, you have to request one, and there are several ways to do that:
- Request your ballot through the Secretary of State’s online portal. Go to https://portal.sos.state.nm.us/OVR/WebPages/AbsenteeApplication.aspx?type=RA to fill out and submit the application for an absentee ballot online.
- Get an application for an absentee ballot from your County Clerk’s office. You may be able to download the application from the Clerk’s website and print it out, or you can contact them by phone or email to ask them to send one to you. Another option is to go to the office and get the application in person, but many offices are closed or have limited hours due to the pandemic, so make sure they’re open before you go. If you need to find out the location of the Clerk’s office in your county, or get contact information (phone, email, website), there’s a list on the Secretary of State’s website at http://www.sos.state.nm.us/Voter_Information/County_Clerk_Information.aspx. If you get a hard copy of the application rather than submitting it online, complete and sign the form and mail it in or hand-deliver it to the Clerk’s office.
- Download and print a copy of the application from the Secretary of State’s website. Fill it in, then mail it or hand-deliver it to the County Clerk’s office.
- In some counties (but not all), the county clerk will be mailing an application for an absentee ballot to every registered voter. However, you don’t have to wait – even in these counties, we recommend that you go ahead and request an application using one of the methods listed above.
What information do I have to provide when I apply for an absentee ballot? Very little information is required: your name and address as registered, and your signature. There’s one exception: If you mailed in your voter registration and did not send identification at that time (and you are voting for the first time since you registered), you also have to provide a copy of a photo ID or another document that shows your name and address. That can be a utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, tribal ID, or other government document. If you already provided identification when you registered, you don’t need to submit it again to get your absentee ballot.
When can I get an absentee ballot? You can request an absentee ballot now or anytime through Tuesday, October 20. The application must be received through the Secretary of State’s website or in the County Clerk’s office by 5:00 p.m. on October 20. County Clerks will begin mailing ballots on October 6 to voters who’ve asked for them.
We strongly recommend that you request your absentee ballot as soon as possible. Mail-in voting is expected to be widely used this year due to the coronavirus pandemic so demand will be much higher than usual and early requests will help your County Clerk respond.
How do I submit my completed absentee ballot? The ballot will come to you in the mail, and will include an inner envelope and an outer envelope to be used in returning the ballot to the Clerk. Once you’ve marked your ballot with your election choices, place it in the inner envelope, sign your name exactly as registered and enter the last four digits of your Social Security number. The inner envelope is placed inside the outer envelope for return to the Clerk. The Clerk will send instructions along with your ballot. To make sure your vote is counted, follow those instructions exactly as to how to complete the ballot and prepare the envelopes it will be returned in.
You can return the completed ballot by mail (postage is pre-paid so you don’t need to add it), or by delivering it to the County Clerk’s office or to an early voting or Election Day polling location.
What’s the deadline to return the completed absentee ballot? The ballot must be received by the Clerk’s office or delivered to a polling place by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 3. Ballots that are received after Election Day won’t be counted, even if they’re postmarked on or before that day. We recommend returning your ballot well before the deadline. If you mail it, you should do so by Tuesday, October 27, to be sure it gets in on time.
Can someone else deliver my completed ballot to the County Clerk for me? New Mexico law allows a voter’s caregiver or a member of your immediate family (spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters) to deliver the ballot on your behalf. No one else is authorized to do this for you.
Once I’ve gotten my absentee ballot, can I change my mind and vote in person? Yes. You’ll sign a sworn statement that you haven’t used and won’t use the absentee ballot. That ballot will be canceled and you’ll get a new one to use in voting at the polling site.
Can voters with vision impairments get an accessible ballot? Yes. New Mexico has accessible absentee ballots available for voters who are blind or visually impaired, allowing them to use their own non-visual or low-vision technology to mark their ballot. To get an accessible ballot, fill out the application online at this link: https://portal.sos.state.nm.us/OVR/WebPages/AbsenteeApplication.aspx?type=RA. An email address is required. The ballot will be sent to that address.
Keep an eye out for future messages about voting. In the meantime, you can find lots of information on the Secretary of State’s website at http://www.NMVote.org or by going to http://www.sos.state.nm.us and clicking on “Voting and Elections” at the top of the homepage.
* * * * * * *
This message is from Ellen Pinnes and The Disability Coalition.
The Disability Coalition is funded in part by the New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Planning Council through Federal Program funding. Additional funding is provided by The Arc of New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, the Independent Living Resource Center, and New Vistas.