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Judge: Impound Sandoval Ballots

A state District Court judge has ordered State Police to impound ballots cast throughout Sandoval County for the general election and deliver them to the 13th Judicial District Courthouse in the county.

Republicans David Doyle, Paula Papponi and Dan Foley sued County Clerk Sally Padilla on Thursday requesting the impoundment. Their attorney, Pat Rogers, said the action will ensure the ballots can be kept in a secure place where “interested parties” can inspect them.

“We’re doing this for the voters of Sandoval County to have faith in the integrity of the election,” Papponi said.

Voters were outraged by long lines and hours of waiting at voting centers in Rio Rancho on Election Day. Some Rio Rancho Republicans have claimed it was an attempt at “voter suppression.” Others questioned the competence of the county’s Bureau of Elections.

A crowd of about 80 people, including some Democrats, turned out for the Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday night to discuss their concerns with the way the election panned out.

“The people of Rio Rancho were disenfranchised,” Rio Rancho resident Robert Lopez told the commission. “People were leaving out of frustration.”

Lopez asked that all votes be recast in order to allow voters ample opportunity to cast their ballots.

Daymon Ely, a Democrat, was also unhappy with the obstacles Rio Ranchoans faced in trying to vote.

“I find myself in the unique position of, at least on this issue, agreeing with Republicans,” Ely said.

The County Commission is scheduled to canvass the ballots at 6 p.m. today.

Rogers said the impoundment request will “allow some sunlight on the process —the handling of the ballots and materials.”

Judge John Davis’ order includes tally sheets, registration certificates, paper ballots, absentee, provisional and in-lieu-of ballots and ballot envelopes.

Papponi ran against Democrat Eileen Garbagni for the county clerk’s job and Doyle was seeking to unseat Democrat John Sapien in Senate District 9. Unofficial results showed Sapien leading Doyle by 11,568 votes to 11,421 and Garbagni leading Papponi by 25,689 votes to 25,373. Foley is a former Republican state representative now living in Rio Rancho.

The Republican Party of New Mexico issued a statement supporting the impoundment.

“Court oversight of the handling and processing of the ballots and related election materials is absolutely necessary given the appalling lack of competence and planning shown by the Sandoval County Clerk,” the statement said.

The state Democratic Party issued a statement on Thursday saying the responsibility for what happened in Rio Rancho on Election Day lies with Secretary of State Dianna Duran, whose office is responsible for overseeing elections.

County spokesman Sidney Hill said he did not know how the impoundment would affect the canvass.

Journal Staff Writer Patrick Lohmann contributed to this report.

— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal