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Thursday, February 20, 2003

House Approves Ballot Bill

The Associated Press
    SANTA FE The House has passed a proposal that would allow county clerks to open the outer envelopes of absentee ballots three days before Election Day.
    "This is a very simple bill," said Rep. Kandy Cordova, D-Belen. "All it's doing is allowing the clerks to expedite the process of counting absentee votes."
    The measure, which passed 43-21 Wednesday, goes to the Senate.
    Cordova, a former county clerk, said the integrity of the ballots would remain intact because the inner envelope would not be opened until Election Day.
    The outer envelope has the voter's name and signature, while the votes themselves are in a second, inner envelope.
    The change would allow any county clerk who wanted to take advantage of the permissive law to start counting the ballots immediately on the morning of Election Day. Currently, workers can't start opening the outer envelopes until 6 a.m. that day.
    Election law varies widely through the country when it comes to handling of absentee ballots. In some states, clerks can open the outer envelope two weeks before the election.
    In New Mexico, that hasn't been allowed because of fears about protecting the integrity of the ballot.