Doña Ana County



Interim Doña Ana County Clerk J. Joe Martinez and his staff discovered a clerical error Oct. 23 that resulted in several dozen incorrect absentee ballots being mailed to voters. The error is expected to affect fewer than 100 ballots, all of which will be remailed in time for the affected voters to fully participate in the election process.

Acting on information provided by Martinez, Senior Assistant County Attorney Karen Wootton obtained a court order today by which the absentee ballot boxes will be opened at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25 under the supervision of a Third Judicial District Judge. Bureau of Elections personnel will then look at all outer envelopes in the ballot boxes and visually inspect the unopened, coded envelopes to determine which ones may have been affected.

By comparing voter registration information to coding on the outside of each absentee ballot, the Bureau of Elections staff will be able to tell whether any given voter received the wrong ballot, allowing him or her to vote in incorrect district races. Any discrepancies will be noted and a new ballot will be mailed first-class in an expeditious manner to each affected voter, along with an explanation of the discrepancy. The incorrect ballots will be stored in a separate ballot box. If any given voter fails to return a corrected ballot, the old ballot will be used to record the voter’s selections in races to which s/he is entitled to vote.

“It’s unfortunate that this situation has occurred,” Martinez said, “but it’s a tribute to the new checks and balances in the office that it was caught quickly. Through the cooperation of staff and the quick action of the district courts, we are confident the matter can be rectified in plenty of time to have the majority of affected votes recast properly. I wish the mistake hadn’t occurred, but I’m grateful that we were able to catch it and correct it in a timely manner and to the greatest possible extent.”

Democratic and Republican Party chairmen were notified of the issue in hand-delivered letters late on the afternoon of Oct. 24 and invited to witness the ballot-box openings in person.

“We’re going to do this right, and it will be squeaky clean,” Martinez said. “My goal remains to identify problems and solutions quickly and efficiently as we move through this election. The voters of Doña Ana County deserve no less, and we don’t intend to let them down.”

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.