Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
As national results continued to trickle in Wednesday morning, Bernalillo County’s top election official was already in reflection mode.
Despite a pandemic and record voter turnout, County Clerk Linda Stover said New Mexico’s most populous county had completed its counting before midnight Tuesday, a feat she said left her wondering if she should “pinch” herself.
“This is a clerk’s dream: to have this big of an election – this big under these circumstances – and this clean,” she said in an interview.
It’s not that there were not any snags. Stover said two Albuquerque polling places experienced brief power outages Tuesday, but crews quickly resolved them. And there were some incidents of what she called “people mouthing off to each other” at polling sites, and driving by with political signs and creating anxiety, but no wide-scale voter intimidation problems, she said.
The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which had offered election law training to police and conducted proactive Election Day polling site visits to combat voter intimidation, gave the election a positive review.
“We are extraordinarily pleased that this election was held without significant disruption, and commend the Bernalillo County Clerk for her fair and efficient administration of the process,” District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Brandale Mills Cox said in an email.
The general election vote tallying went smoother overall than during the June 2 primary, when Stover sent exhausted election workers home before they completed counting. That was largely a function of a last-minute absentee ballot onslaught; nearly 18,000 absentee voters had waited until primary election day to submit their ballots. A final tally was not finished until nearly 24 hours after polls closed.
Stover said her office worked to avoid a similar fate this time around. The clerk worked diligently to communicate with the public leading up to the general election, urging voters to cast, or return, ballots as early as possible. And the public responded.
Though the numbers remain “unofficial” until the New Mexico Secretary of State completes canvassing later this month, 319,510 Bernalillo County voters cast ballots in the general election, including 145,289 early-in-person and 141,340 via absentee ballots. But fewer than 4,000 of those absentee ballots arrived on Election Day. Since the county’s absentee board can begin qualifying votes 10 days before Election Day, the majority were already in the tabulator before Tuesday.
In-person, Election Day voting accounted for just a fraction of total participation – about 10% of all ballots cast.
Stover said she had sufficient staffing to ensure everything was counted by day’s end, something she attributes to a new wave of election workers who helped fill in spots vacated by older workers who stepped away this year due to concerns about the virus.
“Golly, I just feel really proud of this group,” Stover said. “I think Bernalillo County did a fantastic job in really dire times.”