By Susannah Abbey
Today, September 22, 2020, is National Voter Registration Day. So we’re going to celebrate by talking to the Voter Registrar Extraordinaire, Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover. It’s especially important for us to make our voice heard in the upcoming General Election. This year, we citizens have questions about the safest and most efficient way to do it. Here is Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover answering some of our questions:
Is it too late to request an absentee ballot?
No. Go to bernco.org and request an absentee ballot as soon as you can.
On September 14, we started sending out absentee ballot applications to everyone who had not already requested one.
Then what happens?
[When we get your application] we verify you are who you are and send you a letter saying you’ve been approved. Then we will send them [the ballots] out. You will get the ballot after October 6. The County Clerk sent out applications over 400k qualified voters, so I’m urging people to please request a ballot now.
We received ballot applications from the Center for Voter Information. Are you encouraging people to use those applications?
Those applications from the CVI are legal and you can use them. [However], I prefer knowing our absentee ballot applications are being used.
Will there be the usual number of polling stations and mobile voting booths this year?
We’ll have 71 polling locations, like every year. Each one will have a drop box for absentee ballots. The mobile voting booths are too small for social distancing and so I am going to see if I can use them as drop box locations only.
Will there be other ballot drop-off centers?
Yes—at the Clerk’s Annex, all polling locations, and also ten additional boxes in locations To Be Determined. Mayor Keller may allow us to set up the boxes in community centers. People will be able to drive by and just drop them in.
If we request a ballot and then change our minds and want to vote in person, can we do that?
Yes–you just go into the polls and tell them. You will need to sign a form that you will not use the mail-in ballot sent to you previously.
If we choose to use the Postal Service to mail in our ballot, is there a way we can know when our ballot has been received?
[You will] be able to go online and check that your ballot has been received. There will be a barcode on each ballot, so the ballots will be tracked. We have spoken to our local postmaster and they will treat election mail as first class mail, that they will process is immediately. The Tuesday before the election (October 27) is the last day that we recommend mailing in your ballot.
Can people register on voting day?
There will same day registration at five locations: the Clerk’s Annex, and one at each quadrant of the city—we’ll spread them out. You cannot change party but you can update or newly register. This is important for everybody: make sure you update your address so we can give you the right ballot.
What is the most important thing for people to know when they decide how to vote in BC?
The main thing is to have confidence in election officials—it’ll be open and transparent, we will have PPE (personal protective equipment) and we will clean between each voter. I know people are a little spooky about this, but we will be okay.
During the primary, we were able to produce a solid election. On election day, we processed over 100,000 absentee ballots. It was the biggest election in terms of absentee ballots received–it was larger than the Obama and Reagan general elections. Our election in November is going to be huge, but people can know that they’ve got really good staff. We have been working with these 33 clerks in different New Mexico counties. I have never seen so much cooperation between counties—it doesn’t matter whether they’re Democratic or Republican.
As the mail comes in each day, ballots will be tabulated by the absentee board. These are all citizens who are running the tabulator, not the county clerk’s office staff. They get a small stipend. Staff members are there to facilitate and answer questions, but the public runs this election.
When will you start counting the mail-in ballots? Will it be secure?
Ten days prior to the election, we can start opening the absentee ballots. We have cameras, an equal number of Democratic and Republican watchers. We take the ballots back to a cage and they’re entered into a tabulator and that room is locked.
For more information and for key dates, visit the Bernalillo County Clerk’s web site
To register to vote, visit the Secretary of State’s Web site