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Sandoval to pay $215,000 in election settlement

Sandoval County will pay $215,000 to attorneys representing three Rio Rancho Republicans who filed a federal lawsuit over the number of voting locations and machines assigned to Rio Rancho – a problem, since addressed, that led to long lines of people who stood in line for hours trying to vote in the 2012 general election.

The county settled the lawsuit last week. Terms of the attorney fee settlement were not disclosed in court filings, but county officials confirmed the amount in an interview with the Journal.

Last year, U.S. District Judge William “Chip” Johnson granted an order that County Clerk Eileen Garbagni, a Democrat, and Election Bureau Director Eddie Gutierrez comply with a County Commission resolution establishing 17 voting convenience centers in Rio Rancho and two in Corrales for the 2014 general election.

County Attorney Patrick Trujillo said the number of machines used in Rio Rancho during the 2014 election exceeded the number approved by the commission.

“The commission and the clerk worked quite diligently on the issue,” Trujillo said.

Johnson found that the 2012 general election in Sandoval County was a “debacle” and ruled in favor of the three Republicans who asked for an order to force the county clerk to follow the commission resolution.

Johnson found that voters had to stand in line for more than five hours waiting to vote in the 2012 election after then-County Clerk Sally Padilla, a Democrat, set up only five voting centers in the city.

Trujillo said the county fought the case because officials believed it should be decided in state court rather than federal court.

“We believed it was a state issue,” Trujillo said. “But they prevailed in federal court.”

The county settled the case last week with attorneys Patrick Rogers, Paul Kennedy and Justine Fox Young after the issue of attorneys fees and a possible appeal dragged on for almost a year.

The three Republican plaintiffs on whose behalf the case was filed – voter Teresa Fleming, former county clerk candidate Paula Papponi and former Senate District 9 candidate David Doyle – didn’t seek monetary damages in the case.

Kennedy and Fox Young sought more than $128,000 in attorneys fees and expenses. Rogers asked for more than $184,000.

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