Workers in the Taos County Clerk’s office resumed counting absentee ballots at 8 a.m. Wednesday (June 3) and have still have no results on the 2020 primary election.
Taos County Clerk …
Workers in the Taos County Clerk’s office resumed counting absentee ballots at 8 a.m. Wednesday (June 3) and still have no final results for the 2020 primary election.
Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez said her staff ceased work at 4 a.m. after a long night of working with an unusually large number of absentee ballots for this election. She said the final tally might not be complete until Wednesday night or later.
“The most we’ve ever had is maybe 1,000 absentee ballots,” Martinez said. “Our absentee board usually only consists of three people.”
This year’s election brought over 6,500 absentee ballots into the clerk’s office and in order to count them all, an additional two staffers were needed. She had to limit the number of people in the office to five in order to meet the state's current health orders prohibiting gatherings of people larger than that.
Concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 at polling places caused a number of New Mexico County clerks, including Martinez, to petition the Supreme Court for a mail-in only election. The court denied the petition but ordered the clerks to send absentee ballot applications to every voter.
Martinez said her office sent over 7,000 ballots by mail.
Once the polls close at 7 p.m., staff in the clerk’s office is able to begin the process of counting absentee ballots. The ballots must be opened, stamped and have the signature verified before they can be fed through the counting machine.
“It’s just a process and it’s just the volume,” Martinez said about the delay.
Martinez said the ballot machines can read one ballot every eight seconds. Each machine will be able to process 450 ballots in one hour. In order to count the absentee ballots, the two machines will need to run smoothly with no interruptions or stopping for just over seven hours.
Staff began entering ballots into the machines in the morning and have been doing so throughout the day.
The clerk’s office filed an extension with Taos County District Court, which would allow for the deadline to be extended beyond 7 p.m. Wednesday if necessary and if the court approves.
Taos County Manager Brent Jaramilo said this was the first instance of the clerk's office having to file an extension that he was aware of.
Five other New Mexico counties, including Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley, Santa Fe and Valencia counties, also have delayed election results due to absentee ballots.
Martinez said she had no way of knowing exactly when the results will be finished.
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