Los Lunas

Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District officials are warning voters not to expect the results from Tuesday’s vote on a half-mill levy for a couple of days after the election.

“In light of what we learned from the Bernalillo Soil and Water Conservation District’s election last week, we have changed how we are going to certify the eligibility of the voters,” said Lucy Aragon, administrative assistant for the conservation district board.

“In that election, the voters had to be certified before they voted. It took more time than the election officials expected, which caused long waits in long lines.”

To alleviate long waits, the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District (VSWCD) has established a voting procedure that will allow property owners to vote prior to certification of eligibility.

“We will keep their sealed secret ballot until all voters are verified, which could take a couple of days, then we will count the votes,” Aragon said.

To help speed up the process, Aragon said “it would be nice if people brought either their county tax notifications, county assessor’s notice of valuation, or property deed to verify their eligibility prior to their voting.

“Otherwise, we are going to have to go through the 90,000 entries on the county assessor’s property tax list to locate the voter.”

On Tuesday, landowners will have the opportunity to approve or reject the half-mill levy. The procedure they will experience will be as follows:

  • Voters will print their names and sign the official poll list, giving the mailing address where the county sends its property tax bill.
  • They will then receive a voter certification envelope on which they will write the physical address of their property and the name or names the property is held in, along with how it is held, such as community property or joint tenant. Their phone number will also be listed in case election officials need to contact them for verification.
  • When the form is filled out, the voter will be handed a paper ballot and a small plain white envelope which they will take with their certification envelope to the voting booth behind a privacy shield.
  • After casting their vote for or against the approval of establishing a half-mill levy, the voter will place the ballot in the plain white envelop and seal it. Then they will place the sealed ballot into the certification envelope which is also sealed.
  • They will then place the certification envelope in the ballot box.

After the polls located at La Merced Elementary School and Los Lunas Elementary School are closed at 7 p.m., the polling officials will begin the process of verifying the voters’ eligibility.

“If they bring their proof of eligibility with them, we will mark the envelope as eligible immediately,” Aragon said. “Otherwise, we have to go to the county assessor’s records and verify their eligibility.”

If, for some reason, the election officials are unable to find the voter’s property listed on the county records, the officials will call the voter to request that they bring verification to the VSWCD office at 267 Courthouse Road.

“We want to do everything possible to verify a landowner’s eligibility to vote if they took the time to vote,” Aragon said. “No votes will be counted until all voters have been verified, which could take a couple of days.”

During this process, the ballots will be stored under lock and key by the county sheriff’s department.

After all certification envelopes have been verified, they will be opened, and the plain white envelopes will be removed and placed into a pile.

Once the certification envelopes have been moved away from the ballot envelopes, the votes will be counted.

“Once the small plain white envelopes have been separated from the certified envelopes, we will have a pile of unidentifiable ballots. This step is to ensure the secrecy of the ballots cast,” Aragon said.

The votes will be tallied by Carol Hart, referendum superintendent, and presiding poll judges Bill Brown, from the La Merced Elementary location, and Evelyn Brannan, from the Los Lunas Elementary location.

“We are going to invite representatives from the news media, Tomé-Adelino Historic Neigh-borhood Association, county extension office, county election bureau and other stake-holders in the election to come and observer the opening of the certification envelops and placement of the ballots prior to the tally,” said Aragon.

Valencia County’s director of the bureau of elections, Lawrence Kaneshiro, while not conducting the election, has been consulted to ensure the election procedure is legal.

“We want to assure people this will be a fair and proper election,” Aragon said.

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Jane Moorman