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Conejos voting machines pass tests

Posted: Tuesday, Nov 25th, 2008

Deadline for

recount request is Friday


CONEJOS — "The Secretary of State’s office was here on Nov. 10th. They ran tests on all our (voting) equipment and everything tested right,” said Lawrence Gallegos, Conejos County Clerk and Recorder, in a recent telephone interview.

Gallegos was speaking about allegations that there were problems, including a charge of “tampering” with voting equipment, following the November 4 general election. Two candidates asked for a recount of their respective races, in part charging that incumbent Republican candidate for Commissioner for Dist I, John Sandoval, was seen tampering with election equipment.

Gallegos has dismissed the accusations citing election safeguards on all Conejos County election equipment.

Gallegos said that following the accusation of tampering, he asked the Secretary of State’s office to visit Conejos and assess the situation. Gallegos said the State tested eight of the County’s 17 electronic voting machines, known as e-Slate units made by Hart/Intercivic. Gallegos said the Secretary of State’s office was in town when the county conducted a post-election audit, also required by the state. That audit showed all equipment checked to be working properly.

Conejos County still must do an election canvass, involving questions and interviews with election officials for a report on how the election was conducted in the county. Gallegos said the canvass was scheduled for Nov. 20, however one election official had a family health emergency and the canvass was re-scheduled to allow time for the official to deal with family matters.

Gallegos also said that during the state’s testing procedures, both candidates with complaints about the election - Democrats June Madril, who ran for the Dist. I commission seat and Charlie Manchego, who sought the Dist. III commissioner’s job - were allowed access. As candidates in a disputed election Gallegos said the state would not allow them to be on hand for all the tests completed on Conejos County equipment. However, each was allowed and each did provide a witness to the state’s testing, according to Gallegos. The state did not test the machines for vote results involving the races where questions were raised. Gallegos said state officials told him they were not counting votes in the disputed races because such action could be construed as a “partial recount.” However, during the post-election audit, Gallegos said machines were tested that had data from all county races and all those machines have tested properly.

The clerk and recorder said no legal action against the county involving the election had been taken as of Nov. 20. “They have until Nov. 28th to request a recount. Then I would have 24 hours to give them an estimate of the cost of a recount. Then they pay and then we do a re-count,” Gallegos said.

Manchego said he asked for a recount in his race to be done by the county. Gallegos refused, citing the lack of need. A mandatory recount is required only in races decided by less than one percent of the vote total. Manchego lost his race with Republican incumbent Steve McCarroll by a count of 2,172 to 1,602. Madril was on the short end of her contest with Sandoval, receiving 1,673 to Sandoval’s 2,090.

Manchego said he is not pursuing a recount and has not filed any lawsuit over the election results. He also said he never brought up the matter of alleged tampering with election machines. Speaking of the election results Manchego said, “We have until a certain day to ask for a recount, but if that’s the will of the people I will accept what the people want.”

Donna Peck, secretary of the Conejos County Democratic Party Central Committee said no one has approached the Party concerning the situation and said the Party had no comment on a situation where they have no information.

Peck, speaking on a personal level and not as a party official, said, “The Conejos County Clerk is very diligent in counting our votes. We’re very lucky to have this clerk.”

Peck also said the Democratic Party had poll watchers on hand when the Secretary of State’s office was in Conejos County.

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