SANTA FE, N.M. – Local elections official petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for permission to conduct the June 2 primary election by mail, asserting that the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible to conduct traditional election-day balloting.
Nearly all of the state’s 33 county clerks signed a petition that calls for mail-in ballots to be distributed to registered voters throughout the state. For voters who require assistance with mail-in or provisional ballots, the clerks suggested limited in-person help at service centers.
“The 568 election-day polling places ... should be ordered not to operate in the 2020 primary election,” the petition states.
The request notes there there are no emergency alternatives outlined in state statute that would safeguard polling workers and voters – and that a special session of the Legislature to change election procedures is impractical because of the contagion.
“The parties have come to this court to fashion a constitutional solution to proceed with the 2020 primary election in a manner that protects election workers and the public while honoring democracy,” the clerks wrote.
The Supreme Court had no immediate response to the petition, said Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the state’s top elections regulator, said through a spokesman that she supports using existing mail-in ballot procedures to replace traditional in-person balloting at polling locations and early voting centers.
Toulouse Oliver spokesman Alex Curtas said that “using mail-in ballots is a secure way for people to practice social distancing while also exercising their civic duty.”
The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the state increased to 281 cases on Monday, with 44 new positive tests, including the first infection in Roosevelt County.
Political parties are choosing nominees to compete in an open congressional race in northern New Mexico and to succeed U.S. Sen. Tom Udall as he retires. The entire Legislature is up for re-election.
Primary candidates are uncontested for two Supreme Court seats held by appointed Democrats.
In other news:
New Mexico’s largest metropolitan jail reported Monday that an inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus. Bernalillo County officials who oversee the Metropolitan Detention Center say the infected inmate was booked into the jail on Thursday without any apparent symptoms of infection. They were later notified that the inmate’s mother had been hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19.Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pressed President Donald Trump on her request for the Department of Defense to install a military hospital in Albuquerque to expand local capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.More than a half-million calls regarding newly enacted federal unemployment benefits swamped telephone lines at the state Workforce Solutions Department on Monday, as officials there pleaded for more time to set up the application process for independent contractors along with self-employed and gig economy workers.The Navajo Nation implemented a reservation-wide curfew Monday, requiring people to be at home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for essential workers. The tribe has recorded 128 cases of the new coronavirus and two deaths among Navajos who live on the 27,000 square-mile reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.