State defending ballot wording

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s office is standing by a Spanish translation on the inner envelope of the state’s absentee ballots. The translation has been questioned by a Curry County woman claiming an incorrect translation causes confusion to whether the votes will be counted.

Maria Cheverez of Clovis said, when translated, the state’s absentee ballot’s inner envelope says the ballot will not be counted until there is a recount.

In English, directions printed on inner envelopes state, “This envelope shall remain sealed until counting of ballots begins.”

In Spanish, the envelope states it will remain sealed until “… el recuento de balotas de votacion.” Cheverez said the phrase translates to “the recount of the ballots.”

Cheverez is challenging “recuento” that she says means “recount.”

But a spokesman from the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday there is nothing wrong with the envelope, which has been used for 15 years without complaint.

Ernest Ortega, press secretary for the secretary of state, said he consulted the translators and bureau of elections. Ortega said “recuento,” means “inventory,” making the envelope grammatically correct.

“They double checked it. There is no error, it is correct,” Ortega said. “It does not mean that anyone that votes absentee that their vote is not counted until a recount — but their vote will count in the normal process.”

Ortega said the bureau of elections has no plans to change the wording on the envelopes.

Cheverez said she has looked up the word in two dictionaries and asked the opinions of other Spanish-speaking acquaintances and finds no evidence “recuento” translates to “inventory.”

“They just don’t want to look bad,” Cheverez said. “Either they speak Spanish or they need to call it something else — ebonics for New Mexico.”

Curry County Clerk Mario Trujillo and Ortega said despite her concern, all absentee votes signed and returned by the correct date will be counted.

A completed absentee ballot has two envelopes: An outer envelope that must be signed by the voter and an inner envelope that contains the ballot.

The form is being used throughout the state.
Tey Diana Rebolledo, chairperson for the department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of New Mexico, consulted with two linguists and a faculty member about the wording.

“We all agreed that it is not clear and could be worded better. It all depends on the literacy of the voter,” Rebolledo said.

An educated voter, she said, may understand “recuento” to mean “inventory,” but if the bureau of elections was reaching for an eighth-grade literacy they “could have been more clear.”

“’El recuento’ for some people was very confusing,” she said. “For other people they said they know what that means.”

Corey Anderson, a volunteer attorney with the New Mexico Democratic National Committee voter protection program, said his group is looking into the issue.

“We’re interested in determining all the facts and determining what the correct action is,” Anderson said. “It holds the possibility that someone may or may not decide to vote based on their interpretation.

“They may decide it’s only going to count only on a recount, then we have a problem. What is the point of voting?”