Overseas voters granted extension

Sharna Johnson

Overseas voters from New Mexico have been granted an extension after ballots in six counties, including Curry County, were sent out past deadline for the Nov. 2 General Election.

To be counted, voting ballots sent to military and overseas voters — 844 total statewide, 102 of which missed the Sept. 18 deadline — must be returned to the county clerk where the voter is registered by 7 p.m. Nov. 6, a four day extension, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office.

County Clerk Connie Jo Lyman said Curry overseas voters will have ample opportunity to cast their votes.

All but two of the county’s 14 overseas voters have already returned their ballots, she said, and the voters who still haven’t were contacted and made aware of the extension.

Lyman said her office missed the deadline by one business day because there was concern over a Spanish translation of two local bond questions pertaining to a proposed criminal justice complex.

Lyman said her office received the ballots from the state’s printing office at 4:45 p.m. Sept. 17 and, on review, noticed the translation didn’t match what had been submitted.

In New Mexico all voters must be given an English and Spanish version of the ballot, she said.

“The Spanish didn’t match the version I had in front of me. I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t read Spanish… but I can tell when something isn’t right,” she said, explaining in the end it was a simple, one-word difference.

“It won’t be identical to the (wording in the) resolution (the county commission passed) but at the time I didn’t know (if it was a problem).”

She said her office had to wait through the weekend to reach the county’s bond attorney and double-check the inconsistency, resulting in the ballots being sent out a business day behind deadline.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to make sure that their ballots are here and they’re going to be counted,” she said.

Lyman said she believes the one-day lost made no impact on the 14 voters and it was worth verifying the ballots.

“It’s their vote and it’s sacred, and I understand that, but I don’t want them voting on a ballot that wasn’t correct. I don’t think that any voter is going to be disenfranchised by the delay.”

Voters who believe they will be overseas during an election can register to vote from afar under the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

The act requires ballots be sent out at least 45 days prior to the election.

Of the two voters who have not returned their ballots, Lyman said one is in California and the other is in Clovis.

Lyman said overseas voters, most often military members serving overseas, are able to e-mail, fax or mail their ballots back to the clerk for their votes to be counted.

She said even with the four-day extension, the votes are expected to be returned and counted before the county canvases voted following the election.

The Secretary of State’s office negotiated with the U.S. Justice Department to extend the deadline in light of the 102 ballots in the state that were not sent by the deadline, according to a press release.

“We stepped in to coordinate with the Department of Justice to give all UOCAVA ballots additional time to be returned,” Secretary of State Mary Herrera said in the release.

“We feel confident these ballots, especially those e-mailed, will be received by voters with sufficient time to mail, e-mail or fax back to their respective county by Election Day. We want every voter to be afforded every possible opportunity.”