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Security issues limit availability of Bernalillo County ballot drop boxes

Nash Jones
One of Bernalillo County's two ballot drop boxes sits inside the Voting Machine Warehouse, Oct. 22, 2021

The state requires permanent ballot drop boxes be secured, enabling them to be available outdoors 24/7 and serving as a COVID-safe and convenient way to vote. With early voting well underway, the clerk for the state’s largest county said their drop boxes remain unsecured. She blames the state’s vendor for the delay. 

The Secretary of State’s office requires that permanent ballot drop boxes are locked, bolted to the ground, equipped with tamper-evident seals and monitored by security cameras. 

Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover said the county’s two drop boxes – one located in Downtown Albuquerque and the other near Broadway Blvd. and Gibson Blvd. – do not yet meet that standard. 

“We have them located outside but we bring them in at night,” she said. “And we have somebody sitting out there looking at them to make sure nothing happens to them.”

The drop box at the county’s Voting Machine Warehouse on Broadway Blvd. was just inside the doors of a building when KUNM visited the site Friday, Oct. 22.

Stover said vendor Advanced Network Management Inc. (ANM), which is contracted to secure the boxes, is responsible for the county being out of compliance with the policy. 

“That is not our doing,” she said. “That is the Secretary of State’s doing. That is her vendor.”

Elections Director with the Secretary of State’s Office Mandy Vigil said supply chain issues prevalent during the pandemic are a factor in the delay. “Some of those items were on back-order,” she said. “So, it’s just a limitation in technology being accessible in time for this election.”

Stover said ANM hasn’t confirmed whether the county’s ballot drop boxes will be secured before Election Day next month. ANM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM Radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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