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Libertarians question counting protocol for write-in votes

SANTA FE – Libertarians say they fear election workers across New Mexico are under-counting the write-in votes for their party’s candidates – enough to threaten their gubernatorial hopeful’s spot on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Blair Dunn, the Libertarian candidate for attorney general, said the concern centers largely on interpreting the validity of write-in votes.

In some cases, he said, voters may have written in the name of a Libertarian candidate, but failed to fill in the bubble next to the write-in line.

As it stands now, the party’s write-in candidates for governor and lieutenant governor – Bob Walsh and Robin Dunn – don’t have enough votes to advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

“We want to make sure this is cleared up,” Blair Dunn said. “Our concern is, if we didn’t address it, the other two major party candidates would be happy to not have our candidates on the ballot.”

He said he also has heard reports of Libertarians being turned away at the polls, giving him “pretty serious concerns” about “suppression of the Libertarian vote.”

Joey Keefe, a spokesman for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, whose office oversees state elections, said the secretary, a Democrat, is confident in the work of county clerks across the state.

“It takes longer to verify write-in votes than other votes,” Keefe said, “and Secretary Toulouse Oliver is confident that all 33 county clerks and their precinct boards are doing their jobs fairly and accurately, as required by state law. To spread unfounded conspiracy theories threatens the integrity of our democracy and is a slap in the face to the county clerks who have devoted their lives to protect that democracy.”

Every Libertarian candidate was unopposed in the primary, but state law requires write-in candidates to get a minimum number of votes to win the nomination. In this case, Walsh and Robin Dunn need at least 230 votes, or 2 percent of the Libertarians registered in New Mexico.

They had about 150 votes, according to unofficial returns released on election night.

The number could fluctuate as election workers and county clerks complete their canvass of the results.

But Daniel Ivey-Soto, a state senator and executive director of the clerks affiliate of the New Mexico Association of Counties, said the write-in votes won’t count unless the bubble is filled in. For ballots tabulated by a machine, he said, voters must follow the instructions to have their votes counted.

A more flexible standard, however, is allowed for hand-tallied votes, Ivey-Soto said.

If the Libertarian Party paid for a recount and demanded a hand tally, he said, election workers would examine each ballot manually and count any vote in which the person’s intent was clearly discernible.