The wait continues in District 7

Staff and wire reports

An official winner of the District 7 State Senate election will not be certain until statewide canvassing is complete two weeks from today.

Incumbent Clint Harden, R-Clovis, held a 30-vote lead over Robert Frost, D-San Jon, after Colfax County canvassed their 10 provisional ballots Monday, finding six votes for Harden and four for Frost.

Now those provisional votes — and many others — must be approved by state officials.

Harden, owner of Twin Cronnie in Clovis, said he was still confident of the win. His counterpart, a ranch owner and manager for the past 42 years, could not be contacted for comment Monday night.

Clerks in some of the state’s largest counties worked Monday to whittle the number of provisional ballots still outstanding from last week’s general election while the fight over how to handle them returned to court.

The work week began with roughly 16,000 provisional ballots in need of review for eligibility in some counties. Friday is the deadline for counties to canvass results to the secretary of state’s office.

Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous, had reviewed about 60 percent of its precincts’ provisional ballots by Monday afternoon and had rejected about a quarter of them, Clerk Mary Herrera said.

The county began the weekend with 11,200 provisional ballots and another 1,800 in-lieu-of ballots to review.
Provisional ballots are for voters whose names don’t appear on the voter roster at the polling place or whose eligibility is otherwise questioned. In-lieu-of ballots are given to people who asked for absentee ballots but said they did not receive them.

Starting the tally of Bernalillo County’s qualified provisional and in-lieu-of ballots became a moving target as workers waded through the qualification process. Herrera had plans to start counting Tuesday.

In Dona Ana County, election workers were still reviewing more than 2,700 provisional ballots for eligibility.

Clerk Rita Torres said she had halted the review process early Monday because she was concerned about a district judge’s ruling Friday that instructed her to publicly announce the reason that any provisional ballot was disqualified. Later in the day, workers restarted the process and a count of eligible ballots was expected Tuesday.

Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron on Monday went to the state Supreme Court seeking to overturn the district court ruling from Dona Ana and another from Sandoval County that ordered observers to be given access to voter information — including Social Security numbers — on the external envelopes of provisional ballots.

Vigil-Giron said the two rulings violated voters’ privacy and that rules for handling provisional ballots must be uniform statewide.

Sandoval County clerk officials were unavailable Monday and have not said how many provisional ballots are outstanding in that county.

In Santa Fe County, workers reviewed all 1,027 provisional ballots by Monday and had 677 eligible ballots.

McKinley County qualified about 500 provisionals out of roughly 1,200 cast and expected to count them by late Tuesday.