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Update: A reader brought to my attention an error. Sandoval County also had other polling places, but these VCCs were only for the city of Rio Rancho. Other counties listed in the VCC list had other precinct polling places as well.
Election day our state had what would best be called a fiasco and massive voter suppression. Rio Rancho which is north of our state’s largest city Albuquerque, had lines wrapping around buildings at multiple voting locations while 30,000 people waited to vote. The problem? Only five polling places for the entire county. If that wasn’t bad enough these polling places only had a total of fifteen sign-in places to print out ballots as voters came in! Some polling places were kept open until after 12:00AM Wednesday morning when the last voter voted cast a ballot. Some were in line for over five hours!
This problem was due to the new Voter Convenience Center polling places which replaced the usual precinct polling places or consolidated precinct polling places throughout many counties in New Mexico. It was a new venture that was successful enough in some places, but in Sandoval County it failed due to a lack of responsible leadership by the County Clerk Sally Padilla and her office. The county clerk’s office ordered only fifteen ballot printing machines, but even then Ms. Padilla’s office wouldn’t take responsibility. Instead the county clerk’s office blamed Secretary of State Dianna Duran, for not sending the twenty-five ballot printing machines Padilla claims she requested. If Ms. Duran didn’t send the requested number of machines why didn’t Ms. Padilla deal with the problem prior to election day? No…Ms. Padilla likely ordered only fifteen.
When KOB news reported on the incident Ms. Padilla was not available to comment, but the county spokesman refused to allow any of the blame to be laid on the county clerk’s office.
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I pulled some statistics to show what other counties of similar and smaller size did with their VCCs:
San Juan County with a population of over 128,000 had twenty-one Voting Convenience Centers.
Lea County with a population of about 65,000 had a total of twelve Voter Convenience Centers.
Grant County with a population of less than 30,000 had a total of six Voter Convenience Centers.
Seems to me that Sandoval County with a population of about 134,000 should have had the same number of polling places as San Juan County…which has a slightly smaller population.
Sandoval County does have a record of voter suppression issues. In past elections even when there were precincts and consolidated precincts, voters would have long lines long past the time when the polls closed at 7PM. Talking with friends about my disdain for Early Voting a few years ago, one couple who once lived in a conservative area of Rio Rancho said they always voted early because the lines were long and if there weren’t long lines the polling place was apt to run out of ballots. There are safeguards set in place for this. When the former pre-printed ballots were used it was required by law to have an excess of ballots, but it seems that the Sandoval County clerk’s office has a habit of disregarding these rules.
Yesterday Attorney General Gary King announced that he will be investigating this “near meltdown of voting procedure…” This certainly disenfranchised voters. It is wrong, and someone needs to take the blame– in this case it appears it should be Ms. Sally Padilla.