Grammar on absentee ballot incorrect

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

A Curry County woman says misuse of Spanish grammar on the state absentee ballots’ inner envelope causes confusion as to whether the vote will be counted.

Election officials have acknowledged the mistake but said all votes will be counted.

Maria Cheverez said when she received her absentee ballot last week she noticed a Spanish translation on the official inner envelope states the envelope will not be opened until there is a recount of ballots.

A completed absentee ballot has two envelopes: An outer envelope that must be signed by the voter and an inner envelope which contains the ballot. The form is being used in all New Mexico counties.

In English, directions printed on inner envelopes state, “This envelope shall remain sealed until counting of ballots begins.” Beneath the English version, the Spanish version states the envelope will stay closed until “El recuento de balotas de votacion” (The recount of the voting ballots).

Translated, “recuento” means “recount.” Cheverez said the translation should be changed to “cuento,” meaning “count.”
Taken literally, the directions say the envelopes will not be opened until a recount takes place.

“How many people saw this and didn’t notice or didn’t even read it?” Cheverez asked. “I just wanted something corrected or acknowledged publicly so that voters know what they are signing and mailing.”

Curry County Clerk Mario Trujillo said he attempted to contact Cheverez and left a message assuring that her vote would be counted.

With a resurgence of voter interest compounded by the election controversy in 2000, he said election offices have had mounted scrutiny placed on their work.

“It is not in any way going to affect her vote,” Trujillo said. “It is too late for this election but it will be rectified. I don’t know what more she wants.”

Cheverez said she is seeking a public statement from the Secretary of State’s office or the removal of the inner envelopes’ Spanish translation.

Ernie Marcus, election director for the Automative Election Services, said his company prints the envelopes for the Secretary of State’s Office which approves the translation.
The percentage of Hispanics in Curry County is 30.4 percent, according to 2000 census figures reported by the Office of New Mexico Vital Records and Health Statistics. Statewide, 40 percent of New Mexicans are Hispanic.

Marcus verified the envelopes have been used since at least the 1998 primary election and approve most recently in 2002. He said envelopes prior to 1998 time have been destroyed.

“It has never become an issue but I acknowledge that it is incorrect,” Marcus said. “In no way does it affect the process or the balloting.”

Denise Lamb, director of the state Bureau of Elections for New Mexico, said the translation issue had not been brought to her attention.

“If it is the incorrect word we will certainly change it the next time we print,” Lamb said. “(Cheverez’s) vote will be counted, we count every vote.”

An absentee ballot has two envelopes: An outer envelope that must be signed by the voter and an inner envelope which contains the ballot. The form is being used in all New Mexico counties.

The inner ballot reads as follows.

• Absent voter ballot
Official inner envelope
This envelope shall remain sealed until counting of ballots begins.

Boleta de votacion de votante ausente
Sobre oficial interior
Este sobre debe permanecer cerrado hasta que empiece el recuento de boletas de votacion
Election officials acknowledge the word “recuento” meaning “recount” should be changed to “cuento” meaning “count.”