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Pearce slams SF County clerk over delayed results

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce on Friday criticized Democratic Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar for lack of preparedness and transparency as the outcome of two GOP primary elections hinged on ballots still being counted there.

The Republican Party’s nomination for the 3rd Congressional District and a state senate race in District 39 remained in doubt Friday night because of the delay, the primary cause of which was a large number of absentee ballots that were turned in to the clerk’s office.

A record number of absentee ballots were cast in the June 2 primary election due to coronavirus concerns.

“I have candidates that are just beside themselves,” Pearce said during a Friday afternoon phone call. “Here we are on Friday. Why can’t we get these results?”

Earlier in the week, a Santa Fe District Court judge granted a request by Salazar to allow her office an extension to tally ballots from Tuesday’s election, giving them until 3 p.m. Saturday to complete the count.

Friday evening, Salazar released a statement explaining that some ballots were inadvertently routed in the wrong direction after being logged in as received. She disputed another charge by Pearce that poll watchers had not been provided with information by the clerk’s office.

“GOP Chairman Steve Pearce’s team is afforded all courtesy and provided all information from the Absentee Board’s Presiding Judge and Santa Fe County Clerk’s staff upon request,” she said.

Pearce said Salazar knew well in advance how many absentee ballots needed to be counted and that she failed to prepare for it. He also said Salazar hasn’t been transparent about the process over the past few days, declining to keep election monitors abreast of even how many ballots were left to count.

“It’s obstruction, a lack of transparency, inefficiency and incompetency,” he said. “What we don’t want is for this to happen again in the fall … This is why people don’t trust the process in New Mexico.”

According to unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website, Alexis M. Johnson, a retired engineer from Santa Fe, was leading former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry B. Montoya by 775 votes. But of the ballots that have been counted in Santa Fe County, Montoya was outpacing Johnson, suggesting that he potentially could make up the difference.

The winner will face Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez in November’s general election for the seat currently occupied by Ben Ray Luján.

The Senate District 39 race between Republicans Susan K. Vescovo and Joseph H. Tiano was even closer. Tiano led Vescovo by just 37 votes Friday night.

The winner of that race will go up against Democratic incumbent Liz Stefanics.

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