How to vote in the NM primary in a county affected by wildfire

Evacuees can request that an absentee ballot be delivered to a new location — even one that’s out of state

By: - May 10, 2022 4:09 pm

The combined Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires burn north of Las Vegas, N.M., in late April. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source New Mexico)

Early voting for New Mexico’s primary elections started Tuesday, May 10, with a message of urgency for the thousands displaced by forest fires burning in their communities: Vote now.

2022 Primary voting dates

More information at NMVOTE.org

May 10: Voter registration (by mail or online) closes

May 10: First day that absentee ballots can be mailed to voters (who have submitted an absentee application), and first day of early in-person voting at a county clerk’s office

May 21: Expanded early voting begins at alternate voting locations

June 2: Last day to request an absentee ballot

June 4: Last day of early voting

June 7: Primary Election Day

The Secretary of State’s Office is urging anyone who left their home due to fires and who wants to vote in the primary election to vote in person at a county clerk’s office or request an absentee ballot that can be mailed to their current location.

For the thousands displaced by the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire in northern New Mexico, that location could be a shelter or a relative’s house, even out of state. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, as long as the absentee ballot application is submitted before June 2, a ballot will be delivered at that address within two to three business days.

People do not have to change their voter registration information if they are requesting a ballot to be delivered to a place that is not their home address.

This primary election is “anything but a normal one,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said .

Today — May 10 — is the first day ballots can be mailed to voters who have submitted an absentee application.

The Secretary of State’s Office is working with the U.S. Postal Service to coordinate the delivery of ballots that were printed and mailed out to people who have already fled their homes, according to spokesperson Alex Curtas. 

It’s unclear at this moment exactly how many ballots were requested by voters who are no longer in their home or their residence. Curtas said the office knows the mail that cannot be delivered is sent to a nearby distribution center and held until it’s safe to deliver. 

More information will be released in the coming days on how to safely get ballots in the hands of voters who submitted requests before they evacuated, he added. 

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is June 2. Primary Election Day is June 7.

Today is also the last day to register to vote in the primary election. New Mexico has a closed primary, so people must register with an affiliated party. 

There is a new rule in place this year that allows independent voters to get a primary ballot as long as they switch parties and do so at an in-person voting site during early voting or on Election Day.

In-person voting is now open at county clerk’s offices around the state, and the fires already forced a shift in early voting operations for those most impacted in Mora County.

The Mora County Clerk’s Office moved 60 miles northwest to the Wagon Mound City Hall located at 600 Catron Avenue. The move is temporary, as the clerk’s official office is in the middle of the evacuation zone from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire that destroyed homes and displaced thousands in the county. 

The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will also offer regular county services.

New Mexicans in Los Alamos, Taos and Sandoval counties are keeping an eye on the fires and could possibly see disruptions if the fires move closer to communities in the areas. 

Toulouse Oliver said San Miguel County voting operations are also in a standby, and voters are encouraged to participate “as soon as possible in case the fire situation changes and causes disruption to county services, as has happened in Mora County.”

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.

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