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.