Wednesday, May 21, 2014

So What's With the Ballots in District 7?

Earlier today I spoke with former Rep. Andrew Barreras of Valencia County, who is running for his old District 7 House Seat. He me that the ballots in his race have the name of his primary opponent, Teresa Smith de Cherif "highlighted."

Barreras said his parents noted this earlier this week when they went to vote. A lawyer for his campaign notified the Secretary of State's Office, who, in turn, referred the matter to Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal.

After review of the Democratic Primary Sample Ballots submitted with your letter we have determined that a glitch in our copying machine has caused the names of the candidates for State Representative District 7, Ms. Smith De Cherif and Mr. Barreras to be darker than the candidates for the other offices. While it appears that on the samples that you submitted Ms. Smith De Cherif’s name is “bolder” than Mr. Barreras’ name, some samples we have retrieved show Mr. Barreras’ name to be bolder than Ms. Smith De Cherif’s.  This indicates the “bold effect” on the copies appears to be related to the position of that particular contest on the ballot—and the way in which that area of the ballot was scanned by the copy machine.

In other words each of the candidates got highlighted, depending on which sample ballot you saw.

Cajabajal continued:

Smith de Cherif
Staff is immediately removing every sample ballot from every early voting polling site in the County. Although it appears that only a small number of the ballots were “bolded” we want to ensure that none are distributed.

The clerk also said her office has contracted with an off-site elections vendor to print new sample ballots for immediate distribution and that her staff will review each printed actual ballot to ensure there are no “bolded” candidate names.

But these are just the sample ballots. How about the actual ballots people use to vote? Barreras' lawyer had written “. . . we are requesting a view of the ballots cast, with appropriate safeguards to protect confidentiality, in early voting to see if any of the actual ballots cast also had the name of Mr. Barrera’s opponent highlighted.”

But that's not going to happen. Carabajal wrote:

Unfortunately, neither this Office nor the Office of Secretary of State has the lawful authority to open a ballot box at this time to inspect its contents and to do so would be a violation of NMSA 1978, Section 1-20-4 (1969).  There is no indication that any actual ballots were subject to printing errors as they are printed on ballot stock paper on specialized separate printers. These specialized printers are separate and apart from the machine that copied the sample ballots, making it implausible that actual ballots were subject to the error.

Ken Ortiz, chief of staff of the Secretary of State's Office told me his office agrees with Carabajal's conclusions.