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Column: Vote and make your voice heard

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Keith Manes/Lea County Clerk

Vote and the choice is yours. Don’t vote and the choice is theirs.

You have no choice unless you register to vote.

To register and vote in New Mexico, the applicant must be a resident of New Mexico, a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years of age on the date of the next election, and not have been denied the right to vote by a court of law by reason of mental incapacity.

An applicant who has been convicted of a felony must have completed all of the terms and conditions of parole or supervised probation, have had the conviction overturned on appeal, or have been granted a pardon by the governor.

Oct. 11 is the last day to register to vote in person for the upcoming general election on Nov. 8.

Registering to vote is easy and painless.

You can register to vote online at nmvote.org, but only if you have an identification card issued by the state of New Mexico, such as a driver’s license. You can register or update your voter information when getting your driver’s license.

The Lea County website, found at https://www.leacounty.net/p/elected-officials/lea-county-clerk/election-information, is available to assist you with voter registration. You can also come to the county clerk’s office or request by telephone a voter registration form. There are, in addition, voter registration agents in the county who can contact you if you make a request of the clerk’s office.

Some people do not want to be associated with a political party. Such persons can register as independents. Traditionally, the only drawback to registering as an independent was only major party candidates appear on the ballots of primary elections. However, new law permits a voter registered as an independent to change parties and to vote in a primary election.

A voter who changes parties for a primary election is allowed to change back to a minor party or independent when the books open 30 days after the election. Voters registered with a major party affiliation, however, cannot change affiliations in a primary election.

Registered voters who vote have a voice in every decision made by our local school boards, hospital boards, city commissions, county commissions, state legislatures, and congress. Our democracy gives voters the power to elect or to reject candidates running for positions on these bodies and for state and federal office.

A poor turnout for an election increases the power of those who actually vote.

In the primary election held on June 7, of this year there were six counties with local races won with very narrow margins. Otero County for example had a county commission race that was won by 10 votes.

Every vote counts and matters.

Some people say they are not going to register to vote because they want to avoid jury duty. It is true jurors are selected from a list of people who hold a New Mexico drivers’ licenses or who are registered voters. A person who has a driver’s license, even if not also a registered voter, still has a good chance of being summoned to serve on a jury.

Keeping your voter registration updated is important.

If you move to a different area in the same town, this could change your city, county, or legislative districts; failing to keep your registration updated may make you ineligible to vote for the people running for office in the district where you live.

If you relocate to a different county or state you may find yourself summoned for jury service at a court far from your current residence.

Traditionally the ability to register to vote in person or online closes 28 days before any election, but with legislation that went into effect in 2022, a voter may now register to vote on the day of the election. You can go to any polling location in the county where you live with a photo identification that shows your current address, register to vote, and vote right then.

The New Mexico secretary of state sent out a mailer the end of September to 49,220 residents in New Mexico who are eligible but unregistered to vote. Those mailers went to 4,655 residents of Lea County. The objective of the mailer was to inform unregistered citizens they are eligible to vote and to encourage them to get registered.

Once a voter is registered, the voter need not register again unless the voter has moved, changed names, or changed party affiliation.

The state of New Mexico permits you to become a voter registration agent, which permits you to register people to vote. If you are interested in being a voter registration agent, you must attend a class given by my office.

If you have any questions or concerns on voter registration or other election questions, please contact my office at 575-396-8614.

Keith Manes is the Lea County Clerk, which oversees the elections in Lea County.

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