[Editor's Note: Corrections are noted in RED. Additions in BOLD]
By Mary Alice Murphy
The Beat got a call this morning from a Grant County resident.
He had gone to his post office box this morning and discovered three official items from the Grant County Clerk.
"We always vote early or absentee," this resident noted. "So, I thought, oh, good, here are the applications for our absentee ballots."
Then he looked more closely and discovered that although the last name and the post office box number were correct, the first names belonged to no one in his family.
He called the Grant County Clerk's office and was told that the company that mails out for the office had a "glitch." The third-party vendor AES New Mexico (Automatic Election Services), which is located in Rio Rancho, provides a number of counties with equipment and supplies, as well as mail-out services.
Clerk Marisa Castrillo told the Beat that indeed the company, which has a contract with the New Mexico Secretary of State, mailed out the absentee ballot applications.
"It looks like they had a glitch in the names," Castrillo said. "We plan another mail out with the correct names.
"I want to reassure our county residents that the application is blank," she continued. "It has to be filled out with the person's name, address, the year of birth, email address and telephone number and must be signed and dated."
She noted that political parties are also sending out blank absentee ballot applications, which also require filling out. But only one vote per person will be counted.
When asked how the information is checked, she said the clerk's office hires an absentee board to cross-check information. "We will send the board applications to prior board members to see if they want to continue on the absentee board. If they don't respond, they are replaced. The board is evenly divided with party affiliation —Democrat, Republican and Libertarian.
Castrillo said: "The New Mexico election system is pretty airtight. Other states look to us as a model."
[Editor's NOTE: The incorrect names have barcodes on them, so if you send the incorrectly named forms back, even with the correct information on the part you have to fill in, you will have covered your personal information with items barcoded to the WRONG NAME, according to Ernie Marquez Sr., AES election director .]
[Editor's Note No. 3 our of 4, so far: If you look closely at your misnamed application, there is a string of numbers after the bar code. Marquez called that a "human read" and said said: "It absolutely is not a social security number, but is the time stamp that the item ran through the printer.]
To a question about purging the vote rolls, she said the Secretary of State triggers the purge. The last one was done in 2017.
[Editor's Note: According to a person who serves on the purge board, the last one was in 2019.]
A notice is sent to the voter at the address on record and if the item gets returned, the person is put on the inactive list for at least two major election cycles. If they do not try to reactivate their registration, then the clerk's office hires a Purge Board and using the list created by the Secretary of State office, purges those that have died or moved.
"I also want to note that we are now connected to different states, so that we can check if a person is registered in a different state and no longer lives here," Castrillo said.
Late afternoon statement from Castrillo: "Grant County voters should be aware that there was a mix-up in absentee ballot applications that were mailed out this week. Voters that received a blank application may have noticed that their first name on the envelope that contained the application was incorrect. This was simply an isolated error on the part of the vendor who we contracted with to send these applications to registered Grant County voters. The application itself was blank and did not contain any individual voter information and this mailing mix-up will not affect the ability of any Grant County voter to vote. The vendor will re-mail corrected ballot applications within the next week at no cost to Grant County or to the state. Voters can use the application they received to apply for an absentee ballot, or they can apply for one by contacting my office directly or online at NMVOTE.ORG. Voters should also remember that there are multiple ways to cast a ballot for the 2020 General Election – you can mail in your absentee ballot, drop off your absentee ballot to any polling location, or vote in-person at any polling location during early voting or on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3."