Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
One day before absentee voting started in New Mexico, the Santa Fe County Commission voted to close 11 mostly tribal and rural polling stations.
County Clerk Geraldine Salazar said during the commission’s May 4 meeting that poll sites needed to be closed to protect poll workers and that she also expects fewer people to volunteer for the June 2 primary election.
“We feel these would be in the best interest of health and safety,” Salazar said.
The closed sites are as far south as Stanley and as far north as Chimayó, leaving 19 open around the county.
Three local pueblos – San Ildefonso, Nambé and Tesuque – have closed sites to stem the spread of coronavirus. More than half of the positive COVID-19 cases in New Mexico are among Native Americans.
Commissioner Anna Hamilton said she feared a reduction in polling sites could lead to “unintentional voter suppression” and that the county needed to publicize information about polling sites before Election Day.
“The idea of reducing the number of election places gives me concern,” Hamilton said, adding that low-income voters might have more difficulty accessing information.
In the resolution for closing polling sites, Salazar wrote that closing the 11 sites should not be an issue for voters, because many more will vote using absentee ballots this year.
The closures come three weeks after the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected an emergency petition from county clerks across the state asking that the June 2 primary be conducted entirely by mail.
“We wish the New Mexico Supreme Court would’ve ruled that it would’ve been an all-mail election, but that did not happen,” Salazar said April 28.
Voters have until May 29 to ask for an absentee ballot.
The closed polling sites are Benny J. Chavez Community Center, San Ildefonso Pueblo Visitor Center, El Rancho Senior Center, Nambé Pueblo Tribal Administrative Building, Tesuque Pueblo Intergenerational Center, Atalaya Elementary, Chaparral Elementary School, St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, Hondo Fire Station #2, Stanley Cyclone Center and Amy Biehl Community School.