The Associated Press
Created: March 31, 2020 07:15 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Local elections officials petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for permission to conduct the June 2 primary election by mail, asserting that the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible to conduct traditional election-day balloting.
Nearly all of the state’s 33 county clerks signed a petition that calls for mail-in ballots to be distributed to registered voters throughout the state. For voters who require assistance with mail-in or provisional ballots, the clerks suggested limited in-person help at service centers.
“The 568 election-day polling places ... should be ordered not to operate in the 2020 primary election,” the petition states.
The request notes there there are no emergency alternatives outlined in state statute that would safeguard polling workers and voters — and that a special session of the Legislature to change election procedures is impractical because of the contagion.
“The parties have come to this court to fashion a constitutional solution to proceed with the 2020 primary election in a manner that protects election workers and the public while honoring democracy,” the clerks wrote.
The Supreme Court had no immediate response to the petition, said Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the state’s top elections regulator, said through a spokesman that she supports using existing mail-in ballot procedures to replace traditional in-person balloting at polling locations and early voting centers.
Toulouse Oliver spokesman Alex Curtas said that “using mail-in ballots is a secure way for people to practice social distancing while also exercising their civic duty.”
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state increased to 281 on Monday, with 44 new positive tests as infections spread to Torrance County south of Albuquerque. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the statewide toll to four.
Political parties are choosing nominees to compete in an open congressional race in northern New Mexico and to succeed U.S. Sen. Tom Udall as he retires. The entire Legislature is up for re-election.
Primary candidates are uncontested for two Supreme Court seats held by appointed Democrats.
(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)