GENERAL ELECTION 2002

GENERAL ELECTION 2002

Although the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office has experienced significant challenges and changes, General Election 2002 is still on its way. Interim County Clerk J. Joe Martinez, appointed Oct.1, is at the helm of the office while election preparations are being made and plans are being put into place to manage challenges that may come before or on Nov. 5.

Martinez said although he’s received many accolades for his appointment, “no county in the nation will have an election without some glitches.” He said he is in regular contact with the State of New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office for support. The secretary’s office has also sent staffers to train and observe the clerk’s employees and operations.

“We expect to have challenges during the [General Election] day, but we have a plan in place we believe will mitigate those challenges and allow us to proceed through election day and on through the canvassing in a professional and expeditious manner,” Martinez said.

Within days of his appointment, Martinez tapped the expertise of former county clerk Bernice Bowden. Martinez appointed Bowden as his chief deputy clerk.

“I didn’t know the first thing about the clerk’s office when I was appointed, but I know administration. I had to familiarize myself with the abilities of the clerk’s office staff and I knew Bernice’s eight years of experience as county clerk would smooth out the rough edges,” he said.

The clerk’s office has increased its staff support with about 20 temporary employees. The Bureau of Elections, a component of the clerk’s office, is in the process of recruiting and training about 555 poll workers and about 20 other temporary employees for the election and canvassing.

The bureau staff will be attending phones to answer voter and poll worker’s questions. Phone operators will have access to a voter information database and will be supervised by an elections specialist to answer any legal or technical questions.

The deadline for prospective voters to register and voters who needed to reregister was Oct. 8 for the Nov. 5 general election. About 76,000 voters who recently registered or changed their voter information received new voter information cards.

Registered voters who want to vote by mail with an absentee ballot can still apply. County Bureau of Elections Coordinator Andy Perez said applicants are receiving absentee ballots on schedule. The mail-in deadline of completed ballots is Nov. 5.

Voters who wish to vote early at an early-voting site will have to fill out an Application for Absent Voter Ballot at the polling site. The information provided by the application will result in a three-number combination designating the correct representative, public regulatory commissioner and county commissioner races. The combination is entered into the voting machine to ensure the voter can only vote for the races to which s/he is entitled. Races in which the voter is eligible to vote are flagged by arrow-shaped lights. Any other selections made in races not indicated by the lights will not be recorded.
The process by which machines are certified starts with a pre-election logic and accuracy test. All interactive components, such as selection lights, are tested and verified prior to the beginning of voting, and selection buttons are programmed to correspond to the correct candidate’s name, which is programmed on the cartridge. A print-out of the diagnostics tests verify the machines’ ability to perform on election day.

Employees of the Bureau of Elections finish each machine’s certification by simulating the steps by which poll workers will operate the machines on election day. The machines and machine computer cartridges are finally sealed with a numbered tag.

The area in which the machines are certified is open to the public during regular hours, if party representatives, for example, want to inspect the machines. As a courtesy to candidates, the bureau certifies voting machines only after regular business hours.

“In one week, we could have all the machines certified, working from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.. Most candidates work during the day, though, so we certify the machines between 5-8 p.m., in case they want to observe or record machine numbers and seal numbers,” Perez said.

Perez said some county residents who desire to vote for candidates of only one political party have been confused by the straight-party option on the ballot.

Instructions for Voting:

1. Make your selection by pressing the button to the right of your choice. An arrow will light up next to your choice.

2. To vote a “Straight Party Ticket,” simply press the button to the right of the party of your choice. This will select all candidates on the ballot for this party.

3. To change any selection (party or candidate), simply press the button of the candidate you wish to change, the lighted arrow will go out. Make your correct selection.

4. When you have completed ALL selections, locate the orange “Cast Vote” button at the bottom and right of the ballot face. Press this button only after you have completed voting in EVERY position you desire.

5. All selections lights should go out, and you may leave the booth.

Voters have the option of writing in the names of write-in candidates.

Instructions for Write-in Voting:

1. If there is a declared write-in candidate, use the keyboard below the ballot face to enter your vote.

2. To enter a write-in, you must first press the square next to the candidate position on the ballot face that reads “Declared Write-in. A flashing arrow will appear next to that position.

3. You may now use the keyboard to spell the candidate’s name. There is a back arrow, in case you make a mistake.

4. When you have entered the candidate’s name, you should press the “Enter” button on the keyboard. The flashing arrow on the ballot face should now be lit, but not flashing.

5. Complete all other selections.

Martinez said he’s received many complaints about the mailing of voter information cards. One complaint is the mailing of cards to registered voters who no longer live at the registered address or are deceased. He said he directed the concerns to Denise Lamb, director of the State of New Mexico Bureau of Elections. Martinez said Lamb cited a statute passed in the last 10 years that prohibited county clerks’ offices from purging registered voters without the expressed directive of the Secretary of State’s Office.

Residents who relocate within the county must reregister with the new mailing address, or mailings from the clerk’s office will continue to go to the old address. Residents relocating outside the county must either notify the clerk’s office of the move or register in the county to which they’ve relocated. Martinez said a purge cannot occur without the expressed consent of the voter or a notification from another county in which the voter is subsequently registered. Returned mail with the notation on the envelope, “No longer at this address,” will not result in the purge of the voter’s registration.

Voter information cards of deceased voters are mailed until proper documentation is presented to the clerk’s office. An original death certificate must be brought to the clerk’s office, which then notifies the secretary of state’s office of the need to purge the deceased’s name. The secretary of state will summarily send a list of names authorized for purge from the roles.

For more information, call Grant A. Taylor at the county Office Public Information at (505) 647-7290. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7290.