Although no one has officially asked for a recount in Tuesday’s municipal elections, two candidates have questioned voting procedures.
In Los Lunas, mayoral candidate Victor “Bud” Williams filed a complaint with the Secretary of State, while in Bosque Farms, village council candidate Dolly Wallace spoke with the county clerk about voting machines. No complaints had been filed in connection with the Belen election.
Williams has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State alleging that the Village of Los Lunas did not follow the proper procedures when counting the votes on election night.
“Both the candidates and the press were locked out. None of us were allowed inside during the tally. It was unfair we couldn’t see the tapes coming out of the machine. The procedures were not properly followed,” he said.
Village Administrator Phillip Jaramillo said neither Williams nor any reporter asked to go behind closed doors.
“He wasn’t denied access. He never asked. We’re not in violation of anything. Too many people were lining up outside, so the precinct judges kept the doors closed. If a candidate had asked, he could have gone in,” he said.
“The precinct judges are there to get the vote out. They’re just trying to get the results so the candidate and the public can know what’s going on.”
“Both losing camps appointed a challenger who was there for the entire thing …. when all the voting machines were opened.”
Challenger James Garcia was unavailable for comment Friday.
Denise Lamb of the State of New Mexico Elections Bureau, said, “at this point all we have are allegations, and right now we are conducting a preliminary investigation.”
After meeting with county officials Friday, Wallace, a candidate for the Bosque Farms Village Council, has decided not to challenge the results of Tuesday’s municipal election.
Wallace said she was not questioning the election results, but she and others did have questions about one of the voting machines.
She garnered the third highest vote count. The top two vote getters, David Linthicum and Ginger Eldridge, will replace former councilors Ken Bishop and Gordon Killough who decided not to run for re-election.
“People need to know that if there are problems, they needed to say something right then,” Wallace said. “If people have trouble at a poll, they should tell people they have problems or call the county clerk or the Bureau of Elections in Los Lunas.”
Wallace and one of the election challengers at the polling place met with County Clerk Tina Gallegos Friday.
Wallace said many people had complained to her about problems with one of the voting machines.
“As many people were complaining about it, I just felt I had to go to election officials. On that particular machine, I was the top vote getter. I don’t want this to look like sour grapes. There were 400 votes on that machine,” Wallace said. “I have asked two or three people about glitches. There could be several things wrong, or it could have recorded the vote properly. People are upset. They think it was not cast properly.”
Wallace herself voted on the machine in question.
“I had no problem with that machine. I want to make sure everything is correct and that machine doesn’t get into another election” and cause problems.
“The machine was OK’d before the election. It was OK after. It did shut down at one time, and a technician came and fixed the machine,” Wallace said. “He did some adjustments and thought that would solve the problem, but a lot of people said they still had a hard time getting it to work for them.”
Wallace said it’s important for people to understand how the election system works.
As she understands it, only the candidates can challenge the machines, which are sealed for 40 days after an election.
“At the end of 40 days, the machines will be opened and checked to be sure they’re working. They clear the machines and get ready for the next election,” Wallace said. But she can ask a judge to open the machines before the 40 days are up.
“Under most statutes, this is correct,” said County Clerk Tina Gallegos. “If there’s a contest, it needs to be issued by the candidate, given to the city clerk, then, once the official challenge has been validated, unless we’re (the county) named a party, we don’t have too much to do with it. But if she names the county or the county clerk, we’re part of the challenge. The only thing with the county is the machine. If it’s with the machines, the county clerk’s office programmed them.”
On the night of the election, “there was a voting machine technician sent out. She said they had a problem with the alignment of the ballot. It was not totally off. They wanted to make it more convenient. The tech fixed that. It was not a mechanical or technical problem, it was fixing it to align better so they could read it easier,” Gallegos said, adding that she had heard complaints from a few voters.
Belen City Council candidate Lorenzo Carrillo has announced he will not request a recount of the votes cast in Tuesday’s election.
Carrillo finished third in the election behind incumbent Terese Ulivarri and David A. Lopez. Carrillo’s vote count was two points behind Lopez’s.
Tuesday evening, Carrillo indicated he might ask for a recount since the election was so close.
On Thursday, Carrillo announced “I want to personally thank my family and friends who have faith in my ability to help serve the city of Belen. I will not be requesting a recount of votes cast in Tuesday’s election. Ms. Ulivarri and Mr. Lopez are very capable individuals who will do a fine job for our community.
“Best wishes and congratulations to those elected, and special thanks to all those candidates who placed themselves in the line of fire in their desire to make a difference,” he said. “I will continue to do my part to make Belen a better place to live, work and raise our children. Once again, thanks to all who supported me.”
No other races were contested, according to Julie Baca, Belen’s deputy clerk, on Friday. “The election was canvased, and the tallies remained the same,” she said.