October 15, 2020
Local leaders explain how they’re keeping ballots secure
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The 2020 election is expected to have a historic turnout of people voting by absentee ballot.
“This is probably going to be the very largest election Bernalillo County has ever seen, especially in absentee balloting. There’s 40 people, a minimum of 40 people every day at the annex when we open up that are already in line,” said Linda Stover, Bernalillo County Clerk.
County officials said the wait time averages around 15 to 20 minutes.
“There really is a lot of processes in place for us to be safe and transparent, and I know people are anxious, but it’s gonna it’s okay,” Stover said.
Ballots that are dropped off at the polling place are placed into a secure box.
“There’s runners that come from the warehouse, and they come out and completely pick up the box and replace it with a new empty box that’s secured with a tag and a number on it,” she said.
Stover explained what happens when ballots are dropped in the mail.
“It goes to a post office box where our staff picks it up and they go several times a day,” she added.
All the ballots are then taken to a voter warehouse, which has security on site. The ballots can’t be counted until 10 days before the election.
“There’s ways to trace this all the way,” Stover said. “We can account for every single solitary ballot, regardless of whether you mail it or you drop it off.”
The district attorney’s office is being proactive, too.
“There has been a lot of really concerning violence all over the country in, frankly, the encouragement of people who are asking individuals to come out monitor the elections and things like that,” said District Attorney Raul Torrez.
Torrez said they’re offering training to the sheriff’s office and APD officers to watch out for voter intimidation.
“The most serious crime that we’re looking for and it’s actually something that’s covered both in state and federal law is a threat of violence or the use of violence to discourage a voter from exercising their right to vote,” he said. “What that usually means is somebody who’s brandishing a weapon or really engaging in violent conduct at or near a polling site.”
Voter intimidation is classified as a fourth degree felony. If convicted, someone can receive up to a year and a half in jail.
“I’m frankly not interested in generating lots of criminal cases or any criminal cases at all,” Torrez said. “What I’d like to do is equip these officers with a clear understanding of the law, and then if they encounter—if they get a call for service and they go to the polling location they can simply calmly walk up to whoever’s engaged in that conduct and say this is the law. You may be in violation. I’m going to ask you to step back, I’m going to ask you to, you know, stop engaging in this behavior.”
A dedicated line of prosecutors will be available to answer calls from law enforcement and help with legal questions in real time. Torrez said the goal is to make sure everyone who wants to vote can do so safely.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for a very long time. I’ve never spent a great deal of time nor have I personally prosecuted anything connected to physical violence at a polling location, but those laws are on the books, and we have to be prepared to enforce them if that need arises,” he said.
For more information about voting in Bernalillo County, click here.