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Homeless have the right to vote

As New Mexico prepares to hold midterm elections on June 5, the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office was working to process all eligible voter registration applications before the May 8 deadline. We are always mindful that the right to vote is fundamental to everyone’s participation in our democracy. Thus, my staff diligently focuses on maintaining records so that each of the roughly 410,000 registered voters in our county has the opportunity to vote.

In the Clerk’s Office, we are frequently asked whether registration is available for the homeless population of our community, and the answer is an affirmative “Yes.” Despite the fact they may not have a traditional place to live, the right to vote in the upcoming primary election extends to all residents of Bernalillo County who are U.S. citizens, who will be 18 years old by the date of the general election in November and have not been convicted of a felony. In New Mexico, primary elections are “closed;” meaning only registered voters in the major political parties may participate.

Consistent with every other state in the union, New Mexico does not require that a citizen have a “permanent home” in order to register to vote. An address or other description of where the homeless person resides is sufficient so long as it allows us to identify and assign a voting precinct to the voter. The precinct assignment will enable the voter to receive the correct ballot.

Homeless citizens of Bernalillo County have several options for identifying where they live. New Mexico’s Voter Registration Application allows applicants to (1) use the physical address of a homeless shelter, (2) describe the general location of where they most frequently spend the night and include a mailing address, or (3) draw a map in the space provided on the back of the registration form of where they live and include a mailing address in order for us to assign them a precinct.

The physical address of a homeless shelter is the most common way that a homeless citizen can identify where they live. We encourage anyone using one of those addresses to confirm with the shelter that they can receive their election-related mail from us at that location.

New Mexico and Bernalillo County follow the national standards for submission of identification for the purpose of voting and voter registration. When any applicant signs their registration form in the presence of a member of the county clerk’s staff or in front of a third party voter registration agent, they are executing an attestation of qualification that is presumed to be truthful. In that sworn statement, the person signing the form identifies themselves as the voter and that they meet all the legal standards in order to qualify as a voter. We encourage our homeless voters to visit the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office at One Civic Plaza NW, 6th floor, to sign the form, thus satisfying the ID requirements for all elections managed by this office.

It is important to know that any individual registered to vote in New Mexico is not required to reregister thereafter. Once the county clerk has initially accepted the voter registration application, a person is registered to vote in any election they qualify for in New Mexico and it is not necessary to re-apply during each election cycle. Constituents can visit our offices at 1 Civic Plaza NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102 or call 505-468-1291. They can also visit the N.M. secretary of state’s website voter information portal, http://www.sos.state.nm.us/Voter_Information/voter-information-portal.aspx,to review and update a registration, as well as view sample ballots and voting locations for upcoming elections.

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