Polls are open in Mora County as residents return home

By: - June 1, 2022 5:00 am

In-person voting locations are open in Mora County, weeks after the community was evacuated by the Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon Fire. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

A week before Primary Election Day, the sun is out in Mora County, the clear skies disturbed only when a gust of wind picks up ash from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fires and lands it on cars parked outside the main polling site.

That’s the view described by Mora County Clerk Carlos J. Arellano, as he runs the final days of early in-person voting from the town proper. Residents are returning home weeks after the two wildfires combined, forcing evacuations and destroying homes.

As of Tuesday, May 31, at 4 p.m.
The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire torched more than 315,000 acres.
It is 50% contained

Voting numbers are down. A county that averages between 1,600-1,700 voters for primary elections, Mora has so far counted 161 ballots and received just over 100 absentee ballots, Arellano said.

Part of that can be blamed on the fact that he had to move their usual polling site an hour away to Wagon Mound, N.M., for safety reasons.

The clerk reopened its normal location in Mora last week, and Arellano said more people are filing in to vote, but he is expecting a smaller turnout because of the reality residents have to face when they return home.


June 2: Last day to request an absentee ballot
June 4: Last day of early voting
June 7: Primary Election Day

“Some people have lost their homes. People are still evaluating their properties. A lot of property burned. A lot of mountain area burned,” he said. “A lot of people are totally devastated. There’s a lot of emotions running. People are concerned about their personal property and their livelihood more than the current election.”

Arellano said he is anticipating at least 1,200 votes by the end of the day on Tuesday, June 7, saying that voters in the area typically participate on Primary Election Day, taking it in as a community event.

In addition to the early and absentee precincts, Mora County will have all 11 polling sites running next week, Arellano proudly states. “We’ve got Chacon, Holman, Cleveland, Mora, Guadalupita, LeDoux, Ocate, Waterous, Wagon Mound, Rainsville and Buena Vista.”

According to the New Mexico Secretary of State, Mora has 3,698 registered voters and nearly 75% are registered Democratic. That’s what makes the primary election here so important, because the winner will often go without a Republican opponent in the general election.

In the county’s contested races, six Democrats are vying for two county commission seats, five are running for sheriff and two are seeking the county assessor seat — all positions that will be instrumental in the rebuild from the destruction caused by the fire and life after.

Legislative spots, such as the representative seat, are also contested in the primary and will play a role in getting state aid to the county.

“The next thing on our slate is our watershed is destroyed. So we’re anticipating flash floods and other things happening,” Arellano said.

He is ready for Tuesday, and in the meantime, he’ll be sweeping away the ashes of what the state’s largest wildfire has burned in his community.

“The wind comes, and all those ashes and everything are blowing around, and that’s affected a lot of people,” he said. “It just blows. You can’t even see sometimes.”

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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.