Home Local News Lea board purges 1,932 non-voters from rolls

Lea board purges 1,932 non-voters from rolls

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Curtis C. Wynne/News-Sun

LOVINGTON — While the Lea County Board of Registration met to clean up voter registration rolls this week, the New Mexico State Legislature took up bills designed to pad those same rolls.

According to Lea County Clerk Keith Manes, the board approved purging 1,932 names out of the 37,356 registered voters in the county following a process that began in August 2020.

In the odd-numbered years, the county commission appoints a board of registration, normally as recommended by the county clerk. The board decides the people who are eligible to be purged.

Manes explained in August 2020, the New Mexico Secretary of State compared the voter files to the change of addresses at the post office, and mailed a notice to all those people who had different addresses than on their voter registration.

“She mailed to all those people a card that said they need to update their voter registration or confirm that it is correct,” Manes said. “If they don’t respond, we move them to an inactive list. If they don’t vote in two general elections — the general election of 2020 or 2022, or any elections between them — they’re eligible to be purged.”

Those who didn’t update their registration and didn’t vote after the notice was sent out in August 2020 were purged.

Manes noted there are numerous reasons a person may no longer live at the address listed on his or her voter registration card.

“They could have died in Lubbock or they could have moved to a different address in Lea County and they haven’t voted,” Manes said. “They may have moved from Eunice to Hobbs and didn’t update their voter registration and didn’t vote.”

Normally, the names of voters who die in New Mexico are captured through local record keeping methods and removed from the rolls, but those who die out of state may not be discovered.

The county commission appoints the Board of Registration at the beginning of each odd-numbered year for a two-year term at the recommendation of the county clerk.

“This time, there were two Republicans and one Democrat. Two years ago, there were two Democrats and one Republican. I try to swap it off,” Manes said. “There is some legislation this year that we have to appoint five. If that happens, they will be appointed in July of this year. And they have to be of mixed parties and serve a two-year term.”

Responsible for managing elections at the local level, Manes said his office is already busy this year.

“There’s so much going on. We had the purge, we have legislation, we had the Eunice schools, now we have the Jal schools and we’re getting ready for the local election in November. That’s on Nov. 7,” Manes said.

Special Eunice and Jal school bond elections involved mail-in ballots only, with Eunice schools completing theirs last week and Jal’s to be in by March 14.

Regarding legislation, Manes intends to join other county clerks this week in Santa Fe to lobby against some bills currently in the state Legislature that he believes are bad.

“They have some crazy ones up there now,” Manes said. For instance, “If you’re 18 and you go to the Motor Vehicle Department to get a driver’s license or an ID and you’re not registered (to vote), they’re going to register you as an independent.

“Then, I will send you a card telling you that you’ve been registered and if you don’t want to be registered, here’s what you do. Or if you want to change parties, here’s what you do. We’re forcing people to register to vote whether they want to or not. That’s in HB 4,” the county clerk continued.

House Bill 4, titled “Voting Rights Protections” and covering numerous other election-related issues as well, already passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 41-26. The bill also came out of the Senate Rules Committee with a do-pass recommendation. Currently, the bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think it’s going to do a lot of inflating of the rolls. People are just going to look at that (options card) and throw it away. They’re just not going to vote,” Manes said.

Another issue for Manes is a legislative effort to open up primary elections more than already done.

Unaffiliated voters last year were allowed to vote in the primary election by changing their registration to a qualified party — Republican, Democrat or Libertarian — before voting.

“Right now, you have to change to the party. But they’re doing away with that so you don’t have to change parties,” Manes explained. “You can just say I want to vote Democrat today and we give you a Democrat ballot. Or you want to vote Republican and we give you the Republican ballot. So, there’s a lot of crazy legislation going on.”

The Local Election on Nov. 7, with a candidate filing day of Aug. 29, will include most of Lea County’s local entities, but not all.

“That includes all the school districts; the Eunice, Jal and Lovington hospital districts; the junior college; the water and soil conservation district; and, right now. Eunice, Jal and Tatum will be in there,” Manes said.

While municipalities were given the option to change to a November local election, Hobbs and Lovington have managed their own elections in March of even-numbered years.

“I think Lovington is going to opt in. It’s on their agenda to vote on that,” Manes concluded. “I’m hoping they will let us do it. It will be much easier.”

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