TAOS — A bar code error on the return envelopes for thousands of absentee ballots for Taos County and San Juan County voters sent election officials scrambling to resolve the problem Thursday.

Instead of the return envelope with the absentee ballot going to the county clerk to be counted, the incorrect bar code sends it back to the voter.

“The USPS is aware of this issue and has put a procedure in place to ensure all ballots are delivered to the county clerk,” Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, said in an email Friday.

“Voters who may have been affected by this issue should use NMVOTE.ORG to track their ballot or call their county clerk’s office to confirm receipt of their ballot. Voters should also be aware that they can drop their absentee ballot off at any polling location in their county,” Curtas said.

The error, by third-party vendor Robis Elections, affected the absentee ballot envelopes of about 4,000 Taos County voters and 6,500 San Juan County voters, Curtas confirmed.

When a few voters in Questa received their completed absentee ballots back in the mail, they contacted the Secretary of State’s Office, which tracked down the error.

In a flurry of texts and email messages passed among voters, the state recommended voters hand-deliver their ballots to the two official drop boxes at the Taos County Clerk’s Office.

“Thank you for your inquiry and for bringing this to our attention,” said a message from Theresa Chávez-Romero, executive assistant to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, to some voters. “I did a little research and found that the bar codes for Taos County are incorrect and routing the ballot back to the voter instead of the county clerk’s office. This was an error by the vendor and is being addressed.”

No one from Robis Elections’ Illinois headquarters or New Mexico office was immediately available to answer questions about the bar code glitch.

Anna Martinez, Taos County clerk, confirmed the bar code issue was an error on the vendor’s part “but has been corrected.”

“If for some reason the ballot gets returned to the voter or if they are nervous about the ballot being sent through the mail they should utilize our drop boxes to return their ballots,” Martinez said in an email. “The post office is getting the ballots to us but most people are choosing to just bring them to the drop box.”

There was no immediate reply to an email and phone calls to the main Taos post office seeking confirmation of how the wrongly coded absentee ballot envelopes will be handled.

George Brown, treasurer and campaign director for the Taos County Democratic Party, said it has been urging people to get their absentee ballots early and drop them off in person at official drop boxes even before the bar code glitch was discovered. Starting Saturday, ballots can also be dropped off at alternate site polling places in the county.

Brown said the party heard about the glitch from a voter Wednesday night and called the secretary of state. “They have assured us that all ballots will get where they need to go, to the County Clerk’s Office.”

He said all voters should follow this advice: Get your ballot early by mail and drop it off by hand.

This story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

(9) comments

DeAnna Satre

If I understand the article correctly, it is being left to the voters themselves who sent in these ballots to become aware of this issue and what they should do about it. This could readily result in ballots never arriving correctly and being counted. Every one of the voters who got ballots with the incorrect return address should be advised personally by mail so they will resubmit their ballot. Some recipients of the returned ballot may be confused and misperceive the issue and ignore it. We need this to be a full and fair election.

Steve Spraitz

If they had a brain, they’d of proofread anything that gets printed

It’s called the ‘Printers Proof’ which is proper protocol before anything gets the final go ahead to publish and or print something .

Newspaper articles, posters, any document, and so forth .

Richard Irell

It is pretty hard to proof read bar codes.

Mike Johnson

Old Mags: "Absentee mail in voting is as safe and reliable as voting in person".....right.

Shawn Chafins

Doesn't anyone ever test things before it goes live?

Mike Johnson

Not in NM, we have an incompetent government, and explains why we are last in the US for all measures of success in government.

Dustin Seifert

But Savannah Guthrie told us there were no issues. What gives?

Richard Irell

So a mistake was made with the bar code. No ballots were lost, no votes will be uncounted. But Trump and his supporters are so desperate to embrace fascism that they are doing everything in their power to destroy American’s faith in our systems and institutions

Shawn Chafins

Wow this happened in NM and had nothing to do with Trump. I can see why we are always last, common sense brought in by the transplants that ruined their own states and moved here can't grasp anything but to blame others.

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