September 4, 2020

DOH order sets social distancing procedures for in-person voting

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With Election Day less than two months away and early in-person voting beginning even earlier, the state set forward physical distancing requirements at polling locations for those who choose to vote in person.

The new requirements in a public health order by the New Mexico Secretary of Health come as state election officials and the governor have encouraged voters to vote by mail through the state’s absentee ballot program.

For those who choose to vote in person, things will look different than how they remember in past elections, owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

Polling locations will only be allowed to have 25 percent of maximum occupancy at the location or four voters at any one time, whichever is greater. Polling locations located in mobile units will only be allowed to have two voters inside at a time.

And polling locations must make sure those inside stay six feet from each other, while workers wash and sanitize their hands frequently and routinely clean all surfaces and writing implements. Those lined up outside polling locations will also need to maintain six feet of distance.

“Election facilities must remain accessible to the public under the state’s Election Code, and as such we’ve got to ensure that everyone casting a ballot may do so safely,” Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel said. “There is still a risk of COVID-19 transmission no matter where we go. Our job is to make these facilities as safe as possible while strongly encouraging New Mexicans to take every precaution while casting their ballot this fall.”

The secretary of health can also impose further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 at a later date.

In-person early voting begins on Oct. 17 and will last through Oct. 31. Election Day will take place on Nov. 3.Voters can request absentee ballots online now, and some county clerks will be sending physical absentee ballot requests to all voters. Voters can request absentee ballots through Oct. 20 and the state says voters should send the ballots by mail no later than Oct. 27. Only ballots that arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day will be eligible to be counted.