County Clerks: Absentee ballots slow returns

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ Staff Writer

New Mexico County Clerks said processing mail-in ballots slowed down the processing of Tuesday’s election results.

Curry County elections manager Coni Jo Lyman said the county’s absentee ballot board finished scanning about 2,000 mail-in ballots by 11 p.m.

Another 100 mail-in ballots had to be hand counted, according to Lyman.

She said absentee mail-in ballots have to be verified, sorted by precinct, scanned, then sent to the secretary of state. The seven-member board began verifying the ballots at 7 a.m., according to Lyman.

“It was a progression that took all day to do,” she said.

Curry County wasn’t alone in its troubles.

Lea County Clerk Melinda Hughes said her county had more than 2,400 mail-in ballots, which the absentee ballot board finished processing by 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

“It really is just a slow system,” Hughes said. “I think this is pretty well statewide. I think you can take that to the bank.”

Hughes said because mail-in ballots are folded, machines tend to spit out the ballots out like vending machines reject crumpled dollar bills.
Lyman said the county’s mail-in ballots have increased ever since the secretary of state relaxed requirements.

“We used to do 200,” she said.

Lyman said around 8 p.m. election workers also encountered a software error with election day ballots and proceeded to count them by hand.

Secretary of State spokesman James Flores said he wasn’t aware of any glitches statewide that slowed the results.