Voter’s Guide: An interview with Eddy County Clerk Robin Vannattare garding the upcoming General Election By Michael Bromka Q:Are we late or early to be thinking and speaking about the upcoming election? A:It'snever too early to get ready for elections. The Clerk’s Office starts preparing for an election six months before the actual election date. Each voter needs to check his or her voter registration. See that everything's up to date. Look yourself up online at NMVote.org or by calling the Clerk’s Office at 575 885-3383.Q::Milwaukee, Atlanta --cities deemed far more sophisticated than we --each had a famously disastrous primary Election Day. Might that happen here?A:The troubles of Milwaukee and Atlanta won't occur here. We're preparing now for a large turnout. Eddy County traditionally shows up to vote, especially for Presidential elections. The Eddy County Clerk's staff have over 70 years combined experience running elections efficiently. We're dedicated. Diligently we ensure full rights and respect to each citizen and registered voter. Q:It's typical of each two-year election to be hyped as historically utterly unique. Here locally, will our election be same-ol' same-ol'?Or very very different? A:Like each election this one will be unique. It's not hype. In all we do, COVID-19 is now a concern. Precautions for November's Election will be extensive to prevent a local outbreak of pandemic. But also it will be same-ol' same-ol'.Eddy County's voters will get what they've had for decades --transparent, accurate, seamless elections. Q:What will the Clerk's staff be doing to ensure public safety? A:We're doing everything with safety in mind. Election administration basics will be standard. But at each polling place you'll see precautions. We'l loffer masks and hand sanitizer to voters. Plexi glass shields will protect voters and poll officials. The State Polling Place Health Order will limit how many people can be in the building at once. Voters will cast their individual ballots safely. As in the past, we'll offer the reliable range of voting options --absentee by mail, absentee in person, early voting in person, and voting in person on Election Day. Q:In Eddy County, is mail-in voting a public health necessity for all voters? A:Mail-in voting is not a necessity, but an option. As just stated, there's one voting option via mail, and three in person. Citizens in Eddy County --as across the U.S.A. --have choices. Voters can do what suits them best. Q:In Eddy County, is mail-in voting likely to cause voter a long time in Eddy County, we have offered citizens absentee or mail-in voting as an option. We've received no word of it being abused. In the Clerk's Office, we update and maintain accurate voter rolls. There's an off chance that a voter might apply for an absentee ballot --but die before the ballot arrives. Would any survivor risk prison to mess with that single ballot? Unlikely. Some folks might imagine a scenario of the absentee application-&-ballot process being abused. In this county it's fiction. We run a tight ship. And voters who apply for absentee ballots are conscientious. Q:One frequent motivation for folks to choose to vote by mail is that they like to see and study their ballot at home for a stretch well before they vote. With such a sensible goal --is registering to vote by mail the only way to see your ballot in advance?A:The NMVote.org website is easy to navigate.By entering up-to-date data, voters can print out and read over their sample ballot.Online answers and a free booklet are available to explain Bond Questions and Constitutional Amendments.If folks are utterly stuck at home, it's good to vote by mail.Some seniors quarantine for medical safety. Yet for vital reasons at times many still leave home.They may feel confident to study their sample ballot at NMVote.org --and then show up to early vote in person.Q:How would the pandemic risks of voting compare to keeping a doctor's appointment, gettinga flu shot at the pharmacy, or weekly shopping for groceries?A:For the sake of voters and our own workers, we strive to provide a non-infectious Voting Center.I am not a doctor.Voters decide for themselves.People make regular trips to doctor's appointments or the supermarket.They can compare those current routines to recollections of early voting in person. Q:Landing a new job or changing family or home situation means that some folks have moved since the prior election. How canthey update their address for voting? Also, what if a voter's driver's license is current --but the address has changed? A:NMVote.org is a web site maintained by the Secretary of State. A person can do several things on this site. If you have acurrent NM Driver’s License, you can update your registration on-line at NMVote .org.You can register to vote, update information in your existing record, apply for an absentee ballot, view precinct and district information, and print out a sample ballotto scrutinize. You can also request that we mail you a paper form, or you can update in person at the Clerk’s Office. Q:Many regular & reliable voters appreciate the convenience of early voting in person.Has the pandemic now made that risky?A:Early voting is not risky.Just take the same precautions as if you were going shopping or on any ordinary errand.Q:Some traditionalists love to vote in person on Election Day itself.But suppose St. Peter's Lutheran gets crowded with a socially distanced line stretching east all the way to Denny's.If voters from that neighborhood don't want a long line, will they have to keep driving by every hour in hopes that the line shortens up?A:If your habitual Voting Convenience Center --VCC --is crowded, consider patronizing one of the others.Those at Hillcrest and J.M.A. are usually quiet.Any one of our thirteen Voting Convenience Centers will admit you to vote on Election day.The list of them is on our web site --NMVote.org.Lest anyone fret about mischief, all VCC terminals feed into one central realtime computer.So nobody can cast a vote more than once by moving on to a second or third VCC.Q:On Election Day --or in the three-week stretch of early voting in person, are there particularly times of day or days in a week when it's less crowded?A:It's a practical question.A VCC is busy from 7-9 am, then quiet 9-11 am.Busy 11 am till 2 pm, then quiet 2-4 pm.Busy 4-6 pm, then quiet 6 pm till close.Or to put it more simply, the VCC is busy immediately before & after work, and during lunch.Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and the hour before close it's quiet. Q: How should a first-time voter or someone who just moved to Eddy County approach the intimidating duty of voting? A:First-Time Voting is a patriotic thrill! It's important and yet straightforward, and pretty easy to do. NMVote.org will get you up to speed.Using your driver's license, get yourself registered.Print out and study your ballot.Of course, all decisions must be your own.Google and Wikipedia can help.Every candidate's campaign has a website.Discuss issues with folks you trust are informed.Even YouTube offers the full spectrum of opinions to survey.Read, listen, discuss, ponder, pray --and reach decisions that you're happy to call your own.Q:When someone votes in person --it's pretty speedy.Then there's that satisfying DING! of the big ballot collecting bin.When do those in-person ballots actually get counted?A:In-person voting, whether early or on Election Day, offers an auditory affirmation you cannot get from a USPS mailbox.When you vote in person, you see your ballot get printed out.In your individual booth you mark your ballot by filling in each oval of your choice.And then you feed your completed ballot into the mechanical tabulator. That machine rolls your ballot into its secure containment.As the ballot rolls, the tabulator reads and records your choices.A brief pause --and then a triumphant DING!Your ballot has been cast and counted!Q:Tell about the pair (or more) of empty ovals on the ballot for each office.Is it better to mark in pencil or pen?Is it better to do a check-mark or an X?A:This one is more important than you might suppose. In each voting booth --and on each ballot --is a clear direction to fill in your chosen oval COMPLETELY with pen.It's not just a checkbox on a shopping list.The tabulator needs accurately to read your marked ballot. So help out the nearsighted robot.Fill within the oval COMPLETELY with pen.Only one oval per choice.Do it right and you'll have no regrets!Q:Plenty of folks are casual about junk mail mixed with bills and a bland absentee ballot we've never seen before.Will that unopened envelope most likely be found atop the TV, under the bathroom sink, in a pile of catalogs nextto the bed, or in the roller bin awaiting the trash pickup?Also, is it easier to early vote in person at the three-week site?Or to do paperwork to replace your lost absentee ballot?A:Citizens who vote on Election Day or early in person neverhave this worry.If you receive a ballot in the mail, it's because you requested it.Your first priority should be to look out for its arrival.The envelope is larger than most junk mail.The next step is please don't lose your ballot!Treat your ballot as the very valuable document it is. We are lucky in the U.S.A. to have options in how to cast our ballot.Let's respect the right and responsibility this ballot conveys.Don't lose it!Open your envelope, read instructions carefully, and mark your votes accurately.Next, be sure to do these TWO STEPS. SIGN your return envelope in the indicated place.And print the LAST FOUR DIGITS of your Social Security number in the correct space.You must do those steps --or your ballot may not be counted.Then mail your ballot back WITHOUT DELAY.Some folks would rather avoid the requisite extra steps they anticipate if voting by mail.This is why so many vote on Election Day itself.Other folks early vote in person.Each in-person voter marks theballot in a booth, feeds it to the big official tabulator, and listens for that congratulatory DING!Their vote has been cast and counted!