State mandates voting changes

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Although the next Curry County election isn’t until June, local officials are already preparing for nearly two dozen state-mandated changes.

The most drastic will be in the voter-identification process. Curry County Voting Administrator Coni Jo Lyman said voters will be required to show proof of identity using at least one of 25 acceptable documents, which range from a driver’s license to a utility bill.

“This is obviously going to slow down the process,” Lyman said. “In previous years we were not required to ask for ID.”

Lyman said the 2000 presidential election hanging-chad debacle has had a “long-lasting effect” on election laws.

“Due to what happened in Florida we are going to be seeing more and more election reform,” Lyman said.

County Clerk Mario Trujillo and Lyman recently attended a mandatory workshop with the New Mexico Secretary of State and the New Mexico Association of County Clerks on new voting laws that took effect July 1.

In addition, Trujillo was appointed to the Election Reform Task Force whose purpose is to review the changes and make recommendations to improve the voting process.

In another significant change, Lyman said the clerk’s office will be required to make at least one “mobile voting” visit to residents living in rural areas who are unable to travel to the polls. Rural communities in Curry County include Texico, Melrose and Grady. She reported the logistics on mobile voting have not been worked out, but the option will be provided to those in need.

Trujillo said the topic of mobile voting has yet to be addressed at a task force meeting. He said he hopes the committee can have the mobile voting mandate repealed.

“It would be nice (mobile voting),” Trujillo said. “But I don’t think it’s practical.” Trujillo said the cost of providing a mobile voting service will be considerable.

Absentee voting is an option for those who can’t travel to a polling place on Election Day, Lyman said.

“Anyone can vote absentee for any reason,” Lyman said. Trujillo said early voting by mail has also been effective for Curry County.

Lyman said the county has purchased 40 new voting machines with a zero percent loan. The administrator said the County Clerk’s office has wanted to upgrade the voting machines for years but could never get the funding.

“They are paper ballot machines,” Lyman said. “The machines are exactly what voters have seen in the past.”

Each voting site will also feature an Americans With Disabilities Association-compliant voting machine to assist the hearing impaired.