Election Officials Say Drop Ballots, Don’t Mail

As Election Day draws nearer, it’s time to return absentee ballots

Voters who haven’t yet returned absentee ballots received by mail for the Nov. 7 election still have a chance to do so. But election officials say it’s risky to put them back in the mail.

“I would not recommend mailing your ballot at this point,” Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine E. Clark tells SFR. “It’s time to start dropping and not mailing your ballot back. We want to make sure we are going to start seeing those ballots.”

Early voting is in full swing, with over 7,800 people who already cast their ballots at the time of publication: 5,546 in-person and 2,282 returned absentee ballots.

Clark reports her office mailed 5,864 ballots to those who submitted requests by the Oct. 24 deadline, a number that suggests voting by mail could far exceed the 2,458 people who chose that method in 2019—another city election year featuring City Council races. Absentee ballots must arrive at the clerk’s office on or before Election Day in order to be counted.

However, some voters are worried about conflicting instructions for how to complete the ballots.

Donna Gomien first reached out to the county clerk’s office when she noticed one of the instructions in voter materials says a ballot must include the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security Number, plus the address, date of birth and signature, but the return envelope itself only has a space for the SSN and signature.

“Just how many votes are going to be thrown out because of voters’ failure to comply with instructions that are impossible to follow? And just how many people who might otherwise plan to vote absentee will not do so, due to these impossible to follow instructions?” Gomien writes. “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Elections Administration Specialist William Sky Korber replied to another voter’s question by writing, “There is a regrettable error in the instructions included with absentee ballots. In previous years we required address information and year of birth, but not for this election.”

Clark tells SFR the county sent an unknown number of ballots with the nonmatching instructions, but revised the instructions for ballots mailed later and updated its website instructions. Further, she says, “only a handful of people” have raised concerns. If elections workers receive an absentee ballot missing required information on the envelope, they contact the voter to “cure” the problem, she adds.

“We’ve got 2,000 ballots back, and the vast majority are correctly filled out,” Clark says. “We’re not seeing changes in voting behavior.”

Voters may return absentee ballots at secure drop-off locations. Find a full list below:

Absentee Drop Box Locations:

  • Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office, 100 Catron St.
  • Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road*
  • Santa Fe Convention Center, 119 S Federal St.*
  • Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Drive*
  • Nancy Rodriguez Community Center, 1 Prairie Dog Loop*
  • La Cienega Community Center, 136 Camino San Jose
  • Pojoaque Satellite Office 5 W Gutierrez Ste. 9, Pojoaque Pueblo Plaza, 17839 US-84
  • Max Coll Corridor Center, 16 Avenida Torreon (Eldorado)*
  • Santa Fe County Edgewood Satellite, 114 Quail Trail*

(*) = Drive-up drop box

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