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County officials approve primary voting results; New totals include provisional ballots, missing poll location numbers

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Chaves County Clerk’s Office staff tally the five provisional votes cast on primary election day, Tuesday, before the Chaves County Board of Commissioners approved primary results Friday afternoon. From left are Bureau of Elections Chief Cindy Fuller, Stephanie Eldridge, Chief Deputy Clerk Jeff Ortega and Clerk Dave Kunko. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Chaves County officials voted to accept some changes to the voting tallies for the 2018 primaries without changing the outcomes of any race.

The Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final numbers Friday afternoon, after first accepting five provisional ballots cast on Tuesday — primary election day — and after hearing that the totals announced on election night did not include 276 votes cast at the Roswell Museum and Art Center polling location.

“Had the elections been close, we would have stayed up all night, even if we had gotten home at 3 a.m., checking our numbers,” said Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko about the missing museum totals. “We did check them, but not closely enough.”

Kunko had explained to commissioners that the cartridge for the museum polling location had been inserted into the machine to upload information to the New Mexico Secretary of State but that the numbers had not been uploaded. The error was caught and the information corrected the following day, he said.

One of the situations involving the provisional ballots caused a debate among commissioners before they decided whether to accept the ballots.

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The disputed case involved a father and son with the same name and belonging to the same precinct but voting at different polling locations. The father, registered as a “Decline to State,” was inappropriately allowed to vote on a Republican ballot, as poll workers mistakenly thought he was the son. When the son came in to vote later in the day, poll workers recognized the error and allowed the son to use a provisional ballot.

Kunko told commissioners that there is no way to remove the improper ballot cast by the father, so commissioners discussed whether to nullify the son’s vote or even possibly all the votes. Eventually, they decided that they needed to accept the son’s legal vote in spite of the error made.

Commissioners said that the situation provided a learning lesson for future elections and poll workers. Kunko also mentioned other concerns to be addressed in the future.

Those include working more closely with the Motor Vehicles Department to ensure that people who register to vote through the agency are registered correctly with the party of their choice. He said poll workers heard many complaints from people on election day about being registered with minor parties, which meant they couldn’t vote, or with parties they didn’t want to belong to. He also said his office will educate voters so that they understand that, to vote in the primaries, they must be registered with one of the three major parties— Republican, Democrat or Libertarian— and can only vote for candidates that belong to their party.

Here are the official counts for offices representing the county:

Contested Primary Races

Chaves County Assessor: Daniel A. Pruitt (Rep.), 1,888; Mark D. Willard (R), 2,895

Chaves County Sheriff: J. Britt Snyder (R), 2,255; Mike Herrington (R), 2,955

Uncontested Primary Races–Republican Candidates

State Representative, District 58: Candy Spence Ezzell, 1,008

State Representative, District 59: Greg Nibert, 2,096

State Representative, District 66: Phelps Anderson, 1,285

Chaves County Magistrate Judge, Division 1: K.C. Rogers, 1,201

Division 2 Magistrate Judge: E.J. Fouratt, 3,136

District 1 County Commissioner: Dara Dana, 549

District 5 County Commissioner: Will Cavin, 832

Chaves County Probate Judge: Clarke C. Coll, 4,386

Uncontested Primary Races—Democratic Candidate

District 1 County Commissioner: Michael A. Trujillo, 292

Uncontested Primary Races—Libertarian 

State Representative, District 59: Carl M. Swinney, 10

Chaves County Magistrate Judge, Division 2: Mayna Erika Myers, 12

The results of all Congressional, statewide and local elections can be viewed on the Secretary of State website, sos.state.nm.us.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.