As the 2020 election winds down to its final two months amid a global pandemic, there are a few local races with contested races, including for the state Legislature.
While New Mexico has done a better job of mitigating coronavirus infections than neighboring states, the public health orders that have been in effect since March are still recommending voting by mail if possible.
Compounding that issue, the United States Postal Service has been implementing new rules that have meant slowed mail service. So who is running, and how can voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 3 election?
Deadlines for the election include Oct. 20—the last day to submit an absentee ballot request.
To vote absentee, a request must be sent in to the County Clerk or Secretary of State for an absentee ballot. The ballot is then mailed out, within 22 days, and must be filled out and returned to the County Clerk’s office or to a Voting Convenience Center in the voter’s county. The status of that ballot can be checked at the County Clerk’s website.
Absentee ballots can also be returned in person, right up until the polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. That is the latest time that ballots can be received in order to be counted, whether mailed or returned in person.
According to FAQs on the Secretary of State’s website, someone who requested an absentee ballot but changes their mind and wants to vote in person can do so, but will have to sign an affidavit stating that the person “did not and will not vote the mailed ballot that was issued.”
Similarly, a provisional ballot can be cast if a voter’s name doesn’t appear on the roster, or for first time voters who registered by mail, or for other voting issues. Provisional ballots are checked against voter rolls and votes already cast before being counted.
Santa Fe County
In Santa Fe County, an early voting site will be open starting Oct. 17, from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays at the town of Edgewood’s administrative office. The site will be open through Oct. 31.
The polls will be open at the same location Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for in-person voting or to return absentee ballots.
Same-day voter registration will be from Oct. 7 to Oct. 31 at the County Clerk’s Office in Santa Fe, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A photo identification is required to register to vote.
In Torrance County, 11 Voting Convenience Center locations will be open for in-person voting: the Duran Fire Station, Encino Community Center, Estancia High School Gym, Torreón Community Center, Manzano Center, Moriarty-Edgewood Schools Administrative Building, the Moriarty Civic Center, McIntosh Fire Station, Willard Community Center, Dr. Saul Community Center in Mountainair and the Tajique Community Center.
Absentee ballots may be returned, or people can vote early in person, at the Torrance County Clerk’s office in Estancia between Oct. 6 and Oct. 29, Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., along with Friday, Oct. 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
An alternate early in-person voting site will be at the Moriarty Civic Center Tuesdays through Saturdays from Oct. 20 to Oct. 31, and Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bernalillo County County Clerk Linda Stover is mailing an absentee ballot application to all registered voters in the county who have not already requested one on Sept. 14. To vote absentee, complete the application and mail it back as soon as possible, says the County Clerk’s website. Absentee ballots will be mailed to voters starting Oct. 6.
In Bernalillo County, 18 Early Voting Convenience Centers will be open county-wide, with one east of Tijeras Canyon at Tijeras Village Hall, and another at the Four Hills Shopping Center on Albuquerque’s east side. Both are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31.
On Election Day, Bernalillo County will have 70 VCCs open around the county, and voters can go to any center in their county to vote, or hand-deliver a completed absentee ballot. This will include locations in the East Mountains: Four Hills Shopping Center, Tijeras Village Hall, A. Montoya Elementary School, Forest Meadow Baptist Church and Vista Grande Community Center.
Same-day registration will be available at the Clerk’s Annex in Albuquerque from Oct. 6 to Oct. 16. That means a county resident can register to vote, then cast their ballot. Same-day registration will also be available at the Four Hills Shopping Center location from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31.
The County Clerk’s website notes that due to the pandemic, these sites are subject to change.
There are five contested races for the state House and Senate in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley. Two of those races include Libertarian candidates.
Running for state Senate District 19 are Libertarian John McDivitt, Democrat Claudia Risner and Republican Gregg Schmedes.
Schmedes is currently serving in House District 22; he defeated incumbent James White in the June primary election by a 54.25% to 45.75% margin, a difference of 585 votes.
According to Schmedes’ website, his top priorities are education, crime, economy, healthcare, government, and the Second Amendment. Schmedes is a medical doctor.
McDivitt joined the Libertarian Party in 1974, according to a bio on the Libertarian Party website. Top issues include opposition to turning the Public Regulation Commission to an appointed body and the economy.
According to her website, Risner is a retired U.S. Navy Captain with 29 years of active duty with a doctorate In International Studies. Her top issues include the environment, energy, veterans, education, rural infrastructure, healthcare, the economy and immigration.
State Senate District 39 candidates are incumbent and Democrat Liz Stefanics and Republican Joseph “Joey” Tiano.
Stefanics is the incumbent, serving from 2006 to the present. She was a Santa Fe County Commissioner from 2009 to 2016, according to her website, and was previously elected to the District 39 seat in 1993, serving until 1996.
Her top priorities include rural healthcare, jobs and the economy, education and the protection of water.
According to Tiano’s website, he is a fourth-generation New Mexican and a graduate of Santa Fe High School who served as a law enforcement officer for 24 years and is now retired.
His top issues are pro-life, term limits, limited government, rule of law, reduced taxes and Second Amendment rights.
Running for state House District 22 are Democrat Jessica Velasquez and Republican Stefani Lord.
Velasquez is an East Mountain resident who taught in Albuquerque Public Schools before becoming adjunct faculty at the University of New Mexico, according to her website. She owns an electroplating company with her husband.
Top issues include responsive representation, education, health and public safety, the environment and the economy.
Lord is also an East Mountain resident who moved to New Mexico for employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to her website. After falling in love with New Mexico, she and her husband relocated to the East Mountains.
Lord’s top issues include representation, jobs, Second Amendment rights, water and open space, crime, pro-life, schools, veterans, mental health, domestic violence, veterans, domestic violence, the Constitution and less government.
Running for House District 50 are incumbent and Democrat Matthew McQueen, Republican Christina Estrada and Libertarian Jerry Gage.
McQueen is the incumbent, and an attorney. He previously worked as an attorney for the State Engineer and sits on several boards and committees.
According to his website, McQueen’s top issues include jobs and the economy, education, energy, the environment and water, healthcare and ethics and transparency.
Estrada is a resident of Estancia, “Estancia Valley born and raised,” according to her website. Her top issues include the opioid epidemic, healthcare, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and the environment.
Gage lives near Rio Communities in Valencia County, and is a veteran of the U.S. Army, according to his bio on the Libertarian Party’s website. The bio does not include Gage’s top issues, but says, “My political views are quite simple, state politics is like a hornets nest, it’s not that interesting to look at until you poke it with a stick. I want to be that stick!”
District 50 reaches from just south of Santa Fe, south through parts of Edgewood and Moriarty and on south of Mountainair. It includes a large area in Valencia County on the other side of the Manzanos including Rio Communities.
For House District 70, the candidates are Republican Nathan Dial and Democrat Ambrose Castellano.
Dial is currently mayor of Estancia, and spent 25 years in the U.S. Army, 23 of those in Special Operations, according to his website.
His top issues include Constitutional support, Second Amendment rights, border security, voter ID and cutting spending.
Castellano’s campaign Facebook page doesn’t include a bio, but does outline priorities: jobs, education, and investing in roads, acequias and water associations.
There are two candidates running for Torrance County Clerk, Republican Yvonne Otero and Democrat Rubena Miranda.
Neither Otero nor Miranda have a campaign website, and neither’s Facebook page includes a bio or top priorities if elected.
One County Commission seat, District 3, is up for election this year. Incumbent and Democrat Javier Sanchez will face Republican LeRoy Candelaria.
Sanchez is the incumbent, and owns the Old Mill Restaurant in Estancia with his wife. Sanchez doesn’t have a website or social media, but his priorities include economic development for the southern part of Torrance County.
Candelaria previously served on the county commission in the District 3 seat. He also does not have a website, and his Facebook page doesn’t list priorities, which include veterans issues.
Races for Bernalillo County Clerk, Bernalillo County Treasurer, Santa Fe County Clerk, Santa Fe County Treasurer and Torrance County Treasurer are all unopposed races.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]