New Mexico county clerks are looking to coronavirus-proof the primary election by changing from a traditional in-person voting process to a vote-by-mail process.

The Daily Lobo obtained a copy of a petition to the New Mexico Supreme Court that lists Keith Riddle — on behalf of all 33 of the county clerks — as the petitioner and New Mexico secretary of state Maggie Toulouse Oliver as the respondent.

The county clerks will ask the Supreme Court to allow them to use the mail-in ballot procedures for special elections because of the health and safety risk that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, according to the petition drafted by Daniel Ivey-Soto, the attorney who represents the state's county clerks.

"County clerks have a choice: (a) follow the provisions of the Election Code for the conduct of a statewide election and risk the lives of their staff and those community members supporting the election process, not to mention the voters exercising their franchise; or (b) violate their oath of office to protect the health and safety of their community, their voters, their staff and themselves," the petition said.

Three states — Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have begun conducting elections by mail, sending ballots by post to all eligible voters in each election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 19 other states, certain elections may be held by mail.

In Oregon, counties provide drop boxes to allow voters to drop off their ballot on or prior to election day, according to the Oregon Secretary of State.

In past elections, voting by mail has not been a perfect science.

According to a study published by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the 2008 presidential election had 3.9 million absentee ballots requested but not received.

Lissa Knudsen is a public health beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @lissaknudsen