Thursday, January 12, 2006
Gov. Wants Standardized Paper Ballots Statewide
By Barry Massey/
SANTA FE New Mexico plans to move to a paper ballot-based system for its elections across the state and the change could be in place by the November general election.
Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday he will propose legislation that requires a paper ballot voting system in all counties and he's proposing that lawmakers allocate $11 million to help pay for needed software and voting machines.
Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Attorney General Patricia Madrid support the switch to the paper ballot system. Also backing the change are some activists in the state who oppose the use of electronic voting machines.
Currently, 11 counties use the system in which voters are given paper ballots, which are tabulated by an optical scanner machine. All 33 counties use that paper ballot system for mail-in absentee voting, according to state elections director Ernest Marquez.
Voters fill in a space on the ballot for the individual they want to vote for. The voter then feeds the ballot into a tabulation machine.
For handicapped and language minority voters, there's a machine that will automatically mark the paper ballot after the voter selects who they want to vote for. Machines to accommodate those voters must be in place by November under a federal law.
Richardson and other supporters said the goal was to have a standardized voting system in New Mexico that can help restore public confidence in elections by providing a paper ballot, which should assure voters their ballots were cast properly.
If lawmakers approve the proposed legislation, Marquez said, it's possible that the paper ballot system could be operating across the state in November depending on whether enough ballot tabulating machines, software and other equipment can be quickly purchased. There are about 1,500 polling places across New Mexico. The state has about $9 million in federal money that will help buy machines.
A law was enacted last year that requires the state to have voting machines providing a voter to verify how they voted.
Copyright ©2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.