Voting centers to be used during elections

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June primaries are more than six months away, but Valencia County voters should be prepared for some changes at the polls.

County commissioners unanimously approved implementing 13 voting convenience centers instead of the 26 usual polling places.

Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal said the change would do two things: Give voters more flexibility and save the county some money.

“Change is coming, but the clerk’s office will strive to make sure the 2014 elections run efficiently,” Carabajal said at the Oct. 16 county commission meeting.

While there are fewer polling places, voters can cast a ballot at any of the convenience centers, regardless of where they live in the county.

“A voting convenience center is an Election Day polling location that is available to any registered voter in the county,” she said. “With the vote centers, there is no wrong place to vote. No more going to assigned precinct polling locations. People can vote at the center that is closest to their home, place of work or school.”

The convenience centers will be combined with the electronic ballot-on-demand system, allowing voters to walk into any center and receive a customized ballot for their voting precincts.

What isn’t changing, Carabajal said, is that voters can still vote early, in person, and cast absentee ballots as usual.

Early, in-person voting locations are the Bosque Farms Public Library, Los Lunas Transportation Center and Belen Community Center at Eagle Park.

The convenience centers will still be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. The centers will be used for the June primary and November general election.

The last day for eligible residents to register to vote in the June primary election is Tuesday, May 6. Registration forms are available at the clerk’s office, 444 Luna Ave., in Los Lunas.

Application forms to register can be requested from the clerk’s office by sending a letter to Valencia County Clerk’s Office, Bureau of Elections, PO Box 969, Los Lunas, N.M., or calling 866-2080.

Eligible voters also can register to vote when applying for a new or renewed driver’s license, when applying for certain public assistance or services and at public libraries, colleges and universities. You may also register at any organized voter registration drive or with any third-party voter registrant agent.

If a voter registration application is submitted by mail and it is the first time the voter has registered in the county or state, a copy of a current, valid photo ID or current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document that shows the voter’s name and address in Valencia County must be submitted.

As the primaries draw closer, Carabajal said her office and the elections bureau will be working diligently to get the word out to voters about the convenience centers.

“We are going to put out fliers, post signs at the polling sites we aren’t using, directing voters to the closest center,” she said.

Carabajal said her department is also working to put information up on the county’s website, including the addresses of and map showing the centers’ locations.

This is actually the second time Valencia County has considered going with the consolidated convenience centers. The Legislature passed a bill in 2011 allowing counties to choose between convenience centers or polling places.

In November of that year, commissioners approved a plan to go to convenience centers. However, after attending the state’s election school that spring, then County Clerk Sally Perea and Carabajal, the bureau of elections director at the time, felt there were still too many unanswered questions, since the convenience center model was largely untested.

The commissioners voted 5-0 to return to the traditional polling places in April 2012.

For any questions, contact the county’s elections bureau at 866-2080.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.