These two articles were sent to the Beat from the Grant County Clerk's office from Clerk Marisa Castrillo at the request of the Beat.
This is part one of the two-part series. The second one will address the duties of the absentee board.
The Beat hopes you find this information useful!
An Explanation of the Absentee Voting Process
In New Mexico, any registered voter may choose to vote by absentee by mail or in person at an early voting location or Election Day voting location.
For voters choosing to vote by absentee, the voter must initiate the process by filling out an application and returning it to the county clerk’s office.
The application requires a person to provide voter identification information including their name, registration address, year of birth, and signature.
Once the county clerk receives this application, the clerk uses the provided information to find a matching record in the statewide voter registration database. If the clerk finds a voter registration record that matches the information provided, the application is accepted and a ballot is mailed out.
Once the ballot is received by the voter, they fill it out and place the ballot in the secrecy envelope which is then placed in the official mailing envelope. The voter is again required to provide voter identification information which includes the signature and last four digits of the social security number.
The voter must return the sealed ballot back to the county clerk either by mail or dropping it off at any voting location or drop box. Upon receipt, the county clerk will verify the required voter identification (signature and last 4 of the SSN) was provided and log receipt of the ballot in the voter registration system.
If the voter identification information is present and the last four digits of the social security number match the voter registration record, the voter record is updated to reflect that an absentee ballot was received and accepted. If the clerk determines there is an issue with the voter identification provided with the absentee ballot, the clerk rejects the ballot and a curing process is initiated which requires the clerk to contact the voter in order to attempt to resolve the discrepancy.
During the whole absentee process, the clerk relies upon the voter registration system to record and track each step of the process including receipt of the application, acceptance or rejection of the application, the date a ballot was mailed, when a ballot was received, and whether a ballot was accepted or rejected. Reliance on this system helps to safeguard the integrity of the absentee process. For example, the system will not permit the issuance of a ballot unless the voter has applied to receive one. If a voter submits more than one application, the system tracks this and rejects any subsequent applications. Finally, the system tracks a voter’s record and is capable of ensuring that a voter cannot vote more than once.
An absentee voter may monitor their own absentee record via the Voter Information Portal available at NMVote.org. From this portal, a voter may check the status of their absentee application or the status of their ballot. This system has become even more sophisticated for this election with the use of intelligent bar codes and a new integration with the post office. These bar codes are located on the mailing envelope of the absentee ballot and allow a voter to track the location of their ballot.