Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez spent nearly 12 hours Tuesday (Nov. 4) driving around from voter precinct to voter precinct troubleshooting issues with the new ballot machines supplied by the state. Due to problems with machines in nearly half of the county’s 36 precincts, staff at the clerk’s office had to hand-tally the ballots from 16 precincts — delaying the election result reports until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. ”It’s hard to get into a new machine that you don’t know anything about,” Martinez told The Taos News Wednesday. The Taos News received a handful of comments and calls complaining of problems with the machines. Despite the problems, Martínez insisted the vote totals were accurate.
At around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, staff at the clerk’s office told reporters it would take them several hours to finish tallying all the votes. While the clear victors had already emerged in most of the races, the race for county commissioner in District 2, between Republican Virgil Martinez and Democrat Mark Gallegos, was neck-in-neck, with Gallegos ahead by fewer than 20 votes. Several of the precincts in District 2 had yet to be counted.
Anna Martinez said problems with the new voting machines stemmed from how sensitive they were. If the machine, which scanned the ballots into the system, detected any kind of slight mark on the ballot anywhere other than inside the circles, the machine would not accept the ballot. Election judges asked voters to fill out ballots again, but because they were long and time-consuming to fill out, some voters did not want to fill out new ballots, Martinez said. In that case, ballots were placed in an emergency box at the back of the machine. Ballots also had to be placed in the emergency boxes whenever the machine malfunctioned, which left a hefty pile of ballots for the clerk’s office to hand-tally.