Sandoval County Clerk’s Office leaders recently told about a dozen Republicans and one Libertarian that absentee ballot drop-boxes have constant surveillance and the voting system won’t accept both an absentee and in-person ballot from the same voter in an election.

Clerk’s office employees addressed concerns about voting security in a presentation April 6 at the voting machine warehouse in Bernalillo. They invited members of the county Republican, Libertarian and Democrat parties, but the Democrats declined.

Deputy County Clerk Joey Dominguez said the county’s seven permanent absentee ballot drop boxes have 24-hour video surveillance, and people can request the footage as public information. Blocking the camera’s view is a misdemeanor.

Permanent drop boxes are new to New Mexico, but they are modeled off of New Jersey’s for enhanced chain-of-custody procedures, he said.

At a later county commission meeting, he said the boxes also have sensors monitoring for water, heat and movement of the door. Those sensors notify him and other clerk’s staff members if triggered.

Sandoval County Bureau of Elections Manager Eric Perez stands in the vote-counting area in the county voting machine warehouse April 6 in Bernalillo. (Argen Marie Duncan / Observer)

When completed absentee ballots are mailed to the Bureau of Elections office, staff scan the outer envelope to record its receipt, and then seal the ballot, still enclosed in the inner envelope, in a ballot box. A sheriff’s deputy escorts the ballot box to the voting machine warehouse for counting.

Dominguez said a law enacted for the pandemic allowed clerk’s staff to “cure” ballots, meaning opening envelope flaps to check for required signatures. They weren’t allowed to open the ballot, which wasn’t supposed to be signed.

If a signature was missing, the staff would try to contact the voter and ask the person to come sign so the ballot could be counted. Dominguez said that law was no longer in effect as of December 2020.

He also said that if an absentee ballot was recorded as received for a voter, the ballot-on-demand system wouldn’t allow a poll worker to print an in-person ballot for the same voter.

If a voter requested an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in person, the voter would have to sign an oath to destroy the absentee ballot, said county Bureau of Elections Manager Tina Dominguez. She is  no relation to Joey. If someone voted in person and then tried to submit an absentee ballot, both ballots would be voided, she said.

More stories:

County clerk’s staff explains election process, security: Click here

Vendor: Ballot-on-demand system certified, kept separate from vote counts & registration database: Click here

County: NM SOS purchased voting machines, which don’t have internet connection: Click here