LOVINGTON — More than 10,000 Lea County voters, if their voter registration mailing address is up to date, will have opportunities to cast ballots in special elections in the next month, for the first time under a new election law.
Two mill levy elections are being held in the Lovington School District, which has 7,516 voters, Tatum School District with 841 voters and Eunice School District with 1,756 voters, according to Lea County Clerk Keith Manes.
Nor Lea Hospital District’s 2.5-mill levy election involves the 8,357 voters in Lovington and Tatum. Those voters should expect to receive two ballots, one for the respective school district election and one for the hospital district election.
The mill levy is the tax rate applied to the assessed value of property. One mill is $1 per $1,000 dollars of assessed value, used to fund services provided by the governmental entity.
The county clerk emphasized, “The mill levies are continuations and will not increase your taxes.”
However, if the mill levies are rejected by voters, local property taxes would therefore be reduced in absence of the special mill levies.
This special election differs from regular elections.
“This will be an all-mail ballot election under the Local Election Act, effective July 1, 2018. There will be no early or absentee voting,” Manes said. Since it is all by mail, there also will be no polling places, he added.
The clerk’s office will mail ballots to every voter in each affected district last Tuesday, which is also the deadline for registering to vote or changing registration.
Ballots must be returned by mail in the pre-addressed, prepaid envelope in time to be in the clerk’s office by 7 p.m. Feb. 5, the election date. Under the new law, the districts pay for postage both ways for special elections.
“It is important to sign the return envelope for your ballot or your ballot may be rejected,” Manes said. “If you have moved and not updated your voter registration, your ballot will be mailed to the address shown on your voter registration.”
Manes requested voters who live in one of the special election districts and do not receive a ballot to contact the Lea County Clerk’s Office at 575-396-8621.
“Other counties have reported about a third of the ballots are returned voted, a third are returned undeliverable and we don’t hear anything on the other third,” Manes said.
Greg Maxie, president of the Lovington Board of Education, last month expressed concern about confusion over the special election, which under the Local Election Act, is required to be an all mail-in ballot election. He said voters might think they are paying for an increase in the mill levy.
“We’re not asking for an increase, just to maintain the current mill levy,” Maxie said. “Without the dollars we wouldn’t be able to have classrooms capable of educating kids.”
Curtis C. Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews. com.