Primary Day Summary Shows Officials, Election Protection Volunteers Working Together to Prevent Problems

Albuquerque – Operation of the Election Protection program during New Mexico’s June 1 primary ran smoothly, as poll monitors in Albuquerque helped voters who encountered problems, including polling places that did not open on time, confusing signage, conflicting advice on the use of provisional ballots, and other minor problems that were all settled in a timely fashion, allowing voters to cast their ballots.

As a pilot for the upcoming general election, the Election Protection program provided a toll-free, statewide voter assistance hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE), and ran a pilot program for poll monitors in precincts across Albuquerque. The hotline provided voters and election officials with instant access to free legal advice from volunteer lawyers and law students trained in election law. The program also stationed monitors at polling places in heavily Hispanic areas to distribute educational materials and assist voters on the spot.

“This trial run was a great success. We worked with election officials before the primary, including Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, to provide materials in English and Spanish to help educate voters, and the few problems we encountered on Election day were resolved quickly,” said Guillermo Nicacio, a field organizer for the Election Protection program and People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). “Of course, with a huge turnout and close races expected for the general election, we will face many more challenges – but we have learned some new things and will be even better prepared.”

Coalition partners in the Election Protection program in New Mexico include the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association, New Mexico Hispano Round Table, New Mexico MANA, Re-Visioning New Mexico and People For the American Way Foundation.

This is a brief summary of some of the issues faced by voters, election officials and the Election Protection volunteers in yesterday’s primary:

  • A number of voters called the 1-866-OUR VOTE number to find out which polling place to visit.
  • The Highland High School polling location did not open at the official 7:00 a.m. time. A call was placed by the Election Protection team to the Board of Elections, the problem was corrected, and approximately 30 waiting voters were allowed to cast their ballots. At the same location, a number of people were waiting in a school registration line instead of the voting line. Poll monitors requested and received signage directing voters to the correct line.
  • A first time voter at the Technical Vocational Institute (TVI) polling location was told that she could not vote because she had recently moved from one county to another and did not have proof of her new address with her. The voter initially was not offered a provisional ballot as provided by state law. Election Protection volunteers talked to the presiding precinct judge, and the woman was ultimately allowed to vote by provisional ballot.
  • Signs identifying TVI as a polling location were taken down at 6:30 p.m., a half an hour before the polls were scheduled to close. Election Protection volunteers called the country clerk’s office and the signs were re-posted.

    For the general election, the program plans to station more than 1,000 monitors at polling places across the state, and the toll-free hotline will be staffed with law students and volunteer lawyers specially trained on the issues at stake in New Mexico and state voting rights.

    “Our goal is to make sure that every New Mexican who wants to vote on Election Day can cast a vote and have it counted. We’ll continue our work with state election officials in the months leading up to the general election to make sure voters know their rights and are prepared to go to the polls,” said Carleton Atkinson, a deputy director for legal outreach for Election Protection.

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    Election Protection is the nation’s most ambitious non-partisan program for preventing Election Day disenfranchisement. The coalition of state and national allies seeks to ensure that every eligible voter casts a ballot that counts on Election Day and conducts aggressive voter registration and education programs to reach people who haven’t been voting. For more information on Election Protection, see www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=12711.

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