RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Election workers in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties on Monday began the painstaking task of re-tallying votes cast in the razor-close state House District 23 race between Republican Paul Pacheco and Democrat Marci Blaze.
The State Canvass Board result showing Pacheco leading his opponent by a 66-vote margin was slim enough to trigger the automatic recount required by state law when the difference is less than one-half of 1 percent of the total votes cast for that office.
House District 23 covers most of Corrales and a portion of southeastern Rio Rancho in Sandoval County and West Side Albuquerque in Bernalillo County. The Republican incumbent, David Doyle, stepped down to run for the Senate District 9 seat held by Democrat John Sapien.
Election workers are recounting all ballots cast in the seven Sandoval County precincts and eight Bernalillo County precincts in House District 23. Election staffers were uncertain late Wednesday when the recount would end.
County clerks who are overseeing the recount don’t expect the laborious task to change the result.
“With a 66-vote difference, that would be a lot of ground to make up,” said Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver.
Sandoval County Clerk Sally Padilla, who has been clerk on-and-off for 23 years since 1982, said the two previous recounts she has experienced turned up a handful of extra votes but didn’t alter the original outcome.
However, added scrutiny has already uncovered more votes than shown in the unofficial results posted immediately after the election.
The Secretary of State’s canvass of county results found 32 absentee hand-tallied ballots from Sandoval County— 20 for Blaze and 12 for Pacheco— that did not appear in the electronic canvass results for that race, according to the recount order.
After adding those votes, the totals show Pacheco leading Blaze by 6,918 votes to 6,852.
An automatic recount also began in Doña Ana County in the House District 37 race between Democrat Joanne Ferrary and Republican Terry McMillan.
Republican attorney Pat Rogers has requested a recount of votes cast in three Rio Rancho precincts in the close races in Senate District 9 and the county clerk position, where Republican Paula Papponi was trailing Democrat Eileen Garbagni by a slim margin.