Many Taos County residents will find that their preferred polling location from past elections won't be an option for the June 2020 primary, and perhaps not even by the time the general election rolls around in November.
Anticipating a lack of workers to staff the county's 31 polling locations and the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Taos County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution on May 8 to consolidate voting precincts and reduce to 12 the number of locations. (Find the locations at this link; scroll to the bottom of the document for locations.) The board determined that a prior resolution approved in 2019 would have been in violation of public health orders from the state limiting social gatherings to no more than five people. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had even submitted a request to the New Mexico Supreme Court that the primary be an "all-mail ballot process," but was denied.
The new resolution was submitted via a petition to the 8th Judicial District Court in Taos last week. A final hearing was held remotely on Thursday (May 14) with Chief Judge Emilio Chavez, county attorney Randy Autio, attorney Charles Rennick and county clerk Anna Martinez.
While Judge Chavez expressed concern that the resolution might result in larger crowds of voters at fewer locations, Martinez said her office had already received as many as 4,500 absentee voting ballots as of that morning. Many voters appear to already be seeking options that might spare them a trip to the polls, she said.
Statewide, Rennick noted that absentee ballot applications had increased from about 20,000 in the previous election to around 100,000 as of last Friday (May 8). The deadline to submit a request for an absentee ballot is May 28.
Early voting also began this week at the Taos County Adminstration Building, where only two voters are being allowed in at a time and are required to wear masks and gloves. Polling booths are also spread 10-12 feet apart and pens used to cast a vote are used only once before they are sanitized.
Martinez said the same safety protocols will be followed when in-person voting becomes available on May 30, and on election day, June 2.
Due to speculation that the current COVID-19 pandemic will see a resurgence before the end of the year, Rennick said its possible that Taos County will also handle the November general election with the reduced number of polling locations.
Alternate sites for voting:
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