Voters confused after non-profit sends out absentee ballot applications before counties

Local Elections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – You may have gotten mail asking if you want to apply for an absentee ballot, but it’s not from any of the county clerks’ offices. With the upcoming election, county clerks across New Mexico are sending out absentee ballot applications in about a month.

“We will be mailing everyone who hasn’t applied for one, we will mail them one on September 14th,” said Linda Stover, Bernalillo County Clerk, who suggests it’s also time to make sure your voter registration is up-to-date. “You want your ballot to go to the right place so you need to go online and check your voter information. Make sure your name is right, your address is right. Perfect time to get it caught up. That way you’re voting on what affects you, where you live.”

Some voters were confused to find applications already in their mailboxes. They’re from the Center for Voter Information based in Washington D.C. which sends the applications on to the New Mexico Secretary of State.

“The phone calls we’ve been receiving are mostly asking if they’re legit,” said Eileen Garbagni, Sandoval County Clerk. “I tell them they are, so just go ahead and fill them out and send them in.”

Not all counties are happy about the third-party stepping in. Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar says it’s something her office would have done anyway, and makes it hard to deal with all these extra absentee ballot applications. Garbagni says they’ve received calls non-stop from confused voters.

“Once we get the applications all done, we can send all the ballots out to people who do request them,” said Garbagni. “Our phones have been ringing off the wall since that third party sent out applications before we did.”

Stover says the actual ballots will be mailed on Oct. 6 as early voting begins, following the applications received after Sept. 14. She says if you don’t want to mail your ballot, you can drop them off at polling locations.

“Be patient. If you request yours, realize it’s going to be a month before we mail the ballots,” said Stover. “We’re going to have lock boxes, drop boxes at all of our polling locations.”

If you request an absentee ballot but later decide to vote in-person instead, you can. Poll workers will verify that you haven’t already mailed in your vote.

KRQE News 13 repeatedly reached out to the Center for Voter Information for a response to the county clerks’ concerns. They tell us they sent nearly 400,000 vote-by-mail applications to voters in New Mexico, “particularly those who have historically been disenfranchised.” They sent the following statement:

We send vote-by-mail applications to registered New Mexico voters, many of whom are in the Rising American Electorate—that’s unmarried women, people of color and young voters who historically have been under-represented in U.S. politics.These vote-by-mail applications are the same official ballot applications as those sent by NM election officials. We follow all state laws and bring democracy to eligible voters’ doorsteps. Since we are nonpartisan, we do not send mailers to anyone based on party affiliation. We care IF you vote, but not HOW you vote.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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