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Provisional Ballot Problem In Sandoval County

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Kevin Haney, presiding judge at the Southern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority polling location in Rio Rancho

Say you went to vote on Election Day 2020, and the poll worker could not find your registration information in the computer system. In that case, you’re supposed to get what’s called a provisional ballot. You fill it out along with a form. It’s set in a separate pile, and later, someone will try to find your registration information to see if your vote can be counted. But the morning of Election Day, at least a few polling locations in Sandoval County could not print provisional ballots.

A little after 12:30 p.m. on Election Day, Kevin Haney, the presiding judge at a small, out-of-the-way Rio Rancho polling location, said they hadn’t been able to print provisional ballots. Five people had asked for them, Haney said. "We can’t print them. You know, it’s a fault inside the system," he said. "There’s a glitch somewhere. What I do is I give them my personal business card, tell them to call me later, and hopefully they’ll have the system figured out. Then I can tell them to come on in and do their ballot."

Haney said the problem was county-wide. In a phone interview, Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni at first indicated that one impatient voter had run into a problem. But then the clerk confirmed that several locations had called in to report the problem. She also said the glitch had not been county-wide, and the issue had been resolved sometime before 1:30 p.m.

Dede Feldman from Common Cause New Mexico said the organization had been working with the Secretary of State’s Office to fix the problem. The most important thing to note, Feldman said, is that if a voter had requested a mail-in ballot and then lost it or didn’t get one, that they demand a replacement ballot at the polls—not a provisional. A replacement ballot is different and gets counted immediately along with all of the others.

Feldman said in the afternoon of Election Day there had been 116 calls to the voter protection hotline so far, and usually there are only about 25. Most were routine, she said, but there were a few reports of Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies in the parking lots. Under the law, police are not allowed at polls unless voting or called to resolve an issue by the presiding judge, she said.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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