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          Front Page  news  state

GOP Complains About Long Lines

By Jeff Jones
Journal Politics Writer
    Bernalillo County voters who tried to take advantage of the final day of early voting on Saturday found long, frustrating lines at many sites, and the state Republican Party criticized Democratic County Clerk Mary Herrera.
    "While we realize that early voting is a convenience, we are very concerned that long lines on Election Day will result in voters leaving the polls without voting and thus they will be disenfranchised," state GOP chair Allen Weh said in a letter to Herrera that was also e-mailed to the Journal.
    "We respectfully demand to know what measures your office is taking to accommodate the voters of Bernalillo County and how you plan to alleviate the long lines at polling locations on Election Day," Weh added in the one-page letter.
    Herrera was already in the GOP sights as the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, facing Republican Vickie Perea in Tuesday's general election.
    Telephone messages to Herrera seeking comment on Weh's letter were not immediately returned.
    But, earlier in the day, Herrera said her office had put out more portable privacy booths at early voting sites to help ease the lines.
    New Mexico is returning this year to all-paper-ballot voting, and even advocates of the new system— which involves filling in the appropriate bubbles with a pen— have acknowledged the method is time-consuming.
    Herrera said she has spoken to other county clerks across the state, and they have also seen lines at their early voting sites.
    The wait at many Bernalillo County sites was an hour long on Saturday. At least one location had a two-hour wait.
    Some voters brought books or other reading materials to the site inside Albuquerque's Sandia Vista Shopping Center, where the line snaked down the sidewalk.
    One observer counted 158 people waiting outside another early voting site at Academy and Truchas in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights— and others pulling into that location left without voting after taking a hard look at what awaited them.
    Weh, in his letter, said some early voters have had to wait as long as three hours to cast their ballots.
    "We believe the long lines at early voting locations have discouraged and disenfranchised many citizens from voting," Weh wrote. "Many senior citizens cannot stand for long periods of time and have left the early voting locations in frustration without casting a ballot."

E-MAIL writer Jeff Jones