Unexpected general election costs have created a $1.4 million hole in the secretary of state’s budget, but the financial squeeze won’t prevent New Mexicans from casting ballots in November, according to New Mexico’s top elections official. Secretary of State Dianna Duran came up empty-handed Tuesday in asking the state Board of Finance for emergency funding for the $1.4 million costs of leased equipment that will print ballots at about 180 “voting convenience centers” in 15 counties. Those allow voters to go to a consolidated polling location most convenient to them rather than their traditional precinct-based voting site.
Duran said after the meeting that she will ask the Legislature next year to cover the additional election costs and will negotiate with vendors, if necessary, to wait on their payments. A 2011 law allowed counties to establish the new voting locations but the state must pay for systems to print paper ballots on demand. Duran said Bernalillo County, which includes the city of Albuquerque, has agreed to share in the costs of equipment used there.
Duran told the board that her office couldn’t correctly estimate the costs of the equipment when it submitted its annual operating budget request to the state in the fall of 2011. Counties didn’t decide until November 2011 whether they would use voting convenience centers and the secretary of state wasn’t able to get final contract bids from equipment vendors until shortly before the Legislature adjourned this year. The budget shortfall won’t delay the election or compromise the integrity of vote-counting, Duran assured the board. “The election has to go on,” she said.