Recount likely for commission race

November 10, 2010 • Local News

Chaves County commissioners voted to make local election results official during Tuesday’s canvass of the general election.

The unanimous approval [auth] by the commission named Republican James Duffey the newest member of the Chaves County Commission, after defeating Democrat Eloy Ortega by two votes, according to election results.

The totals came after county election officials said that human error was to blame for twice calling a race between two candidates a tie, when no deadlock existed.

Ortega originally came out ahead of Duffey 1,002 to 1,001 on Election Day and Duf fey later won 1,005 to 1,003 after additional hand-tallied ballots were discovered following the election. New Mexico’s secretary of state confirmed her office’s official canvass for the commission race late Tuesday, af firming totals announced by Rhoda Coakley, Chaves County clerk.

“He lost by two votes,” said Secretary of State Mary Herrera, referring to Ortega. “That’s what we came out to … exactly.”

“I’m just glad to be two votes up at this point,” Duffey said. “I’m sure we’re going to go into a recount.” Ortega declined to talk with the Roswell Daily Record, but Democratic party members who attended the commission canvass meeting said a petition to be filed with District Court asking a judge for a recount is likely.

“We haven’t made a decision yet, (but) we are looking at it strongly,” said Olivia Reid, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Chaves County. “We’re strongly looking at every avenue.”

A recount could run a high price tag. According to the state canvassing board, the estimated cost for a recount of absentee ballots could cost more than $3,500. The estimated cost per precinct is nearly $1,000 per precinct, not including filing fees.

During the county canvass, commissioners inspected the final numbers for each precinct, polling station, hand tallies and absentee votes in the race for County Commission District 1. There was little discussion among officials before approving the canvass and commissioners only inspected portions of the election tapes for the one race.

During public comment, state Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, asked county election officials to help make the process as transparent as possible, by letting the candidates inspect the ballot boxes once state statute allows for it. “Close elections are hell on everybody,” said Jennings, referring to his first election to the County Commission more than 35 years ago, saying he was first told he lost and then later won.

“It’s all about fairness and our basic and fundamental constitutional right,” he said. “Why am I here? I want to make sure every vote counts. Period.” The importance of every single vote was echoed by other officials.

“We need to get the word out to the public that if they don’t think their vote counts, they’re wrong. They are dead wrong,” said Commissioner Kyle “Smiley” Wooton.

Also, Commissioner Kim Chesser reminded the public that until the County Commission canvasses the results, any figures reported to the public are unofficial.

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