Our voting advice? VOTE EARLY. Second best: Request an absentee (it can be done here!) and mail your ballot early, if mailing it early is not possible, walk your ballot in to the county clerk’s office or an early or Election Day voting center. It’s simple. It’s easy. It makes sense. I’ve worked election integrity for ten years and these are all good options.*
SILVER CITY, NM: What could go wrong with absentee ballots? The list is long, and some lists are borderline conspiracies, but in Grant County, New Mexico, we’re seeing an example of what could go wrong with absentee ballot requests sent by the county to what appears to be every voter in the county.
Grant County Clerk Marisa Castrillo is in the spotlight after her office sent out absentee ballot applications to voters with correct last names and addresses, but incorrect first and middle names. We gathered absentee ballots and pictures of ballots from around the county today as questions and requests for advice poured in. We have also documented that these absentee ballot applications were sent to individuals registered as Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Independent/DTS.
We reached out to Grant County Clerk Marisa Castrillo who said, “Voters that received a blank application may have noticed that their first name on the envelope that contained the application was incorrect. This was simply an isolated error on the part of the vendor who we contracted with to send these applications to registered Grant County voters,” Castrillo continued. “The application itself was blank and did not contain any individual voter information and this mailing mix-up will not affect the ability of any Grant County voter to vote. The vendor will re-mail corrected ballot applications within the next week at no cost to Grant County or to the state.“
We did not receive answers to our questions about how many voters were impacted (we suspect it was every voter in the county who is not sent an absentee automatically) and how she plans to ensure it does not occur again. It’s also concerning that conservatives have primarily shouted FRAUD, this cycle, but haven’t worked to keep an eye on the clerk’s office focusing on involvement and accountability when it comes to COVID19 Voting, which will be crucial for winning elections.
The applications had been sent out in answer to progressive Democrat effort to get more voters to vote absentee out fear of the COVID19 repercussions. The New Mexico Secretary of State has said voting centers will only be allowed to be filled to 25% capacity or four people, whichever is a higher number.
Efforts to keep voters separate from each other are supposed to protect New Mexicans from a deadly virus, but these “COVID19-safe” practices can also serve to stifle democracy and make lines at the polling place longer. Some county clerks, including Grant County’s, even closed early and Election Day polling places during the one part in addition to closing most polling booths at polling locations.
During the June primary, we documented how there were very long lines at the polls for hours on end throughout election day and how voters would wait in line 30 minutes or longer. In Grant County, voters had been used to very short lines and quick turn around, were shocked by the long lines. I have had people reach out to me who tried to vote on a lunch break, but left because they were still in line when the hour-long lunch period ended.
New Mexico’s Secretary of State has previously claimed to be an advocate for ease in voting, but now with COVID19, those concerns seem to be gone.
Former Progress Now New Mexico executive Director Alex Curtas who now speaks for the Secretary of State’s office said, “When we go out into the world nowadays we expect certain restrictions and protocols in place to help keep people safe and that’s exactly what this public health order does, it’s just related to polling places.”
In cities like Albuquerque the County Clerk is organized and will have an online link that you can check to see how long it takes to get through lines at the polls, which makes it so much easier for workers who don’t want to spend an hour at the polls during early voting or on Election Day.
What conservatives should be doing in areas where we share concerns for voter suppression is ensuring tents and schools are available for voting so that our votes count.
*My election integrity experience includes leading or co-leading election integrity efforts for Taos and Grant County GOP parties and the Republican House caucus (regionally) for several election cycles. I have also had opportunities to work with and be trained by some of the best authorities in the state as well as train with the Republican Lawyer’s Association. I’ve been intimidated and physically attacked by local election officials, including a county worker Bobby Morales (the uncle of Lt. Gov. Howie Morales). When I was twenty the New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera sent a deputy Secretary of State to watch me all day on Election Day— I’ve probably been through the worst and craziest of it when it comes to election integrity.