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Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Rejected N.M. Provisional Ballots Top Estimates
By Lloyd Jojola And Rene Romo
Journal Staff Writers
Provisional ballots in Bernalillo County are being rejected at a rate higher than earlier estimates.
And that makes it even more unlikely that John Kerry can overtake President Bush in New Mexico.
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As of Tuesday evening, Bernalillo County election officials working under the watchful eye of Republican and Democrat observers had reviewed about 9,000 of the approximately 13,000 provisional and in-lieu-of ballots cast in last week's election.
Here's an approximate breakdown so far:
3,000 have been accepted and will be counted;
4,000 have been rejected and won't be counted;
2,000 are undergoing further review;
The rest have not been reviewed.
The "reject" category so far is bigger than election officials had predicted.
"It's a lot sadder than what I would expect because that's a lot of people who thought that their vote counted and it didn't," said County Clerk Mary Herrera. "That's because they didn't understand what a provisional ballot really was. A lot of them thought that they could go vote anywhere."
The primary reason for rejecting the ballots was that the people who cast them were not registered to vote, she said.
The deadline for counties to complete the canvass of votes is Friday. The state canvassing board will certify statewide results Nov. 23.
Thursday is a holiday for government workers to celebrate Veterans Day but not for Herrera's crew.
"We'll be working no question," Herrera said.
Provisional ballots emergency paper ballots given to voters whose names did not appear on voting rosters at polling places or whose eligibility is otherwise in question have been the focus of attention statewide, with Bernalillo and several other counties still certifying and counting those votes.
The Associated Press reported late Tuesday that the vote gap between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry was 8,273.
Democrats had said they were watching the provisional vote count closely especially in Bernalillo County because of a possible change in the victor.
But those hopes have all but evaporated.
What's keeping them camped out at Bernalillo County's warehouse is seeing the final vote margin and ensuring that the process is open from start to finish, said Vanessa Alarid, executive director of the state Democratic Party.
In Doña Ana County, election workers began slogging through the roughly 2,700 provisional ballots filed Election Day, but the process moved slowly. By 5 p.m., after three hours of work, the single team assigned the task of reviewing and qualifying provisional ballots had counted 57 ballots.
Of that total, one-third were disqualified for various reasons, including not being registered in the county and not signing proper affidavits.
County election supervisor Mari Langford said that three or four more teams would be assigned to the task starting today to hasten the processing of provisional ballots.
Some local Republicans have criticized the slow pace of the canvass and have alleged wrongdoing without providing evidence. The count Tuesday was conducted before as many as 17 observers as well as one State Police officer assigned for security.
Republican watchers did not challenge any of the ballots, but did raise questions about at least one provisional ballot.
Election workers announced the names and addresses of voters along with the reason ballots were accepted or disqualified.
The Secretary of State's Office on Monday appealed to the state Supreme Court to overturn a ruling last week by a Doña Ana County District Court judge requiring the canvassing board to reveal the name and address on provisional ballots, along with the reason for accepting or disqualifying the ballots.
Elsewhere in New Mexico:
Sandoval County was working to finish reviewing its 734 provisional ballots after having waded through nearly half Monday;
In San Juan County, workers qualified 265 of the 656 provisional ballots cast there and workers started tallying those ballots Tuesday, while Eddy County qualified and counted 34 provisional and 7 in-lieu-of ballots. McKinley County qualified about 500 provisional ballots and workers were counting them Tuesday.
Journal reporter David Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.