Bar code error found in thousands of absentee ballot envelopes

A bar code error on the return envelopes for thousands of absentee ballots for Taos County and San Juan County voters sent election officials scrambling to resolve the problem Thursday (Oct. 15).

Instead of the return envelope with the absentee ballot going to the county clerk to be counted, the incorrect bar code sends it back to the individual voter. 

"The USPS is aware of this issue and has put a procedure in place to ensure all ballots are delivered to the county clerk," said Alex Curtas, communications director for the New Mexico Secretary of State, in an email Friday. "Voters who may have been affected by this issue should use NMVOTE.ORG to track their ballot or call their county clerk’s office to confirm receipt of their ballot. Voters should also be aware that they can drop their absentee ballot off at any polling location in their county."

The error, by third party vendor Robis Elections, affected the absentee ballot envelopes of about 4,000 Taos County voters and 6,500 San Juan County voters, Curtas confirmed. 

When a few voters in Questa received their completed absentee ballots back in the mail they contacted the secretary of state’s office, which tracked down the error. In a flurry of texts and email messages passed among voters, the state recommended that voters hand-deliver their ballots to the two official drop boxes at the Taos County Clerk’s Office. One is in front of the Taos County Administration offices and the other is near the bus stop.

Thank you for your inquiry and for bringing this to our attention,” said a message from Theresa Chávez-Romero, executive assistant to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, to some voters. “I did a little research and found that the bar codes for Taos County are incorrect and routing the ballot back to the voter instead of the county clerk’s office. This was an error by the vendor and is being addressed.” 

No one from Robis Elections’ Illinois headquarters or New Mexico office was immediately available to answer questions about the bar code glitch.

Anna Martinez, Taos County clerk, confirmed the barcode issue was an error on the vendor's part “but has been corrected.” 

If for some reason the ballot gets returned to the voter or if they are nervous about the ballot being sent through the mail they should utilize our drop boxes to return their ballots,” Martinez said in an email. “The post office is getting the ballots to us but most people are choosing to just bring them to the drop box.”

There was no immediate reply to an email and phone calls to the main Taos post office seeking confirmation of how the wrongly coded absentee ballot envelopes will be handled.

George Brown, treasurer and campaign director for the Taos County Democratic Party, said they have been urging people to get their absentee ballots early and drop them off in person at official drop boxes even before the bar code glitch was discovered. As of Saturday (Oct. 17), ballots can also be dropped off at alternate site polling places in the county.

Brown said they heard about the glitch from a voter Wednesday night and called the secretary of state. “They have assured us that all ballots will get where they need to go, to the county clerk’s office.”

He added that regardless of the party, voters should all follow the advice: get your ballot early by mail and drop it off by hand. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 20.


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(3) comments

Juli Barbato

And we are to TRUST the partisan PO workers to properly deliver the ballots? How do I KNOW they're partisan? For one thing, given my experience, PO jobs appear to have happened primarily through nepotism rather than competence. For another thing, when I wore my Hillary for Prison T-shirt to the PO in 2016, a young male clerk there became livid. He tried to jump the counter, presumably to strike me--or maybe to rip the shirt? Why else would you have to jump the counter if you've already said something nasty? And I know from having worked as a session legislative editor in two states, including this one, that in govt jobs, employees must be NONpartisan. I'll vote in person, but I'll do even that with much trepidation.


Why are these vendors so incompetent? Is there any accountability or is it just another Taos Whoops? 4,000 ballots can tip a local election.


If voters in questa and further have to drive to taos to submit their absentee ballot-

They may have well just drive to absentee vote. SNAFU

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