Not content with waiting for the Nov. 3 General Election Day, voters turned out in masses Saturday for the first day of early voting in Hobbs.
Lines at the Lea County Event Center and the Lea County Annex Building stretched to more than 100 people for much of the day, causing wait times up to three hours for some to vote.
Polling places set up in compliance with COVID-related restrictions allowed only five at a time in the voting room at the Event Center and six at the Annex, but a total of 755 people voted, setting what Lea County Clerk Keith Manes believes is a record.
Manes said the total number of voters was 383 at the Event Center and 372 at the Annex.
Because of the high turnout, Manes said they have adjusted the setup at the Event Center to allow for more voters.
Using the Event Center’s lobby area, Manes expanded to polling place to 23 stations to accommodate more early voters.
“We added 18 voting booths, for people to sit down. So, instead of just five, we’re going to have 23. And it’s going to work,” Manes told the News-Sun. “We have to keep the voting equipment secure, but we can roll the tabulators out there every day and have people standing with them. It works.”
Manes said the Event Center accommodated about 35 voters per hour on Saturday, but now the number could go up to 150 voters per hour in the lobby area.
Similar changes at the Annex were impractical because the largest available room at that location already is in use for voting.
Early voting will continue at the two locations in Hobbs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday until Election Day. The Event Center is at 5101 N. Loving-ton Hwy. The Annex building is at 1019 E. Bender Blvd.
In Lovington, early voting is in the basement conference room of the Lea County Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, plus Saturday, Oct. 31.
Jal voters will be able to cast early ballots at the Jal City Hall this weekend, Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In Eunice, early voting will be on Oct. 25-26 at the Eunice Community Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Election Day, Nov. 3, voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 15 locations throughout Lea County.
Meanwhile, Manes said the clerk’s office has received 1,625 absentee ballots so far.
Today is the deadline to request an absentee ballot from the county clerk’s office or online at. Completed absentee ballots may be delivered at any polling place or mailed in time to reach the county clerk by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The Secretary of State’s office recommends mailing absentee ballots by Oct. 27 to ensure delivery in time for the Election Day deadline.
Although online voter registration has closed, Manes said residents wishing to register when they vote may do so at the courthouse in Lovington if they bring a photo ID. If the address on the photo ID differs from the current address, a utility bill or other proof of current residence is also required.
Both early voting and same-day registration ends on Oct. 31.