Last night, and into this morning, I was reminded of the 2000 Presidential election. As New Mexico was called for Gore, retracted, called for Bush, retracted, and sat in the undecided column, a friend asked what the hell was happening in New Mexico.
I had left the state party just over a year earlier and was actually surprised by her question. I replied, “I’m not sure what you mean. With Florida flopping back and forth like a dying fish, I guess this is your first experience with this sort of thing. In New Mexico, it’s just how we do things.”
I went on to explain that the media love to be the first to call races, and in their excitement they generally forget that the state GOP pushes absentee and early voting and pushes it HARD. In 2000, there were nearly 60,000 absentee ballots cast.
That also creates the unintended side effect of creating a massive problem with what they call “hand tallies.” You see, when an absentee ballot is run through the reader, and doesn’t count correctly, it is rejected and must be counted by hand. Two volunteers (theoretically one GOP and one Dem) sit on either side of a table and read off every race on the ballot, and the selection the voter made.
As one reads, the other records. There is no way to verify that the selection read by one is the same as the vote recorded by the other. I’ve seen cases where both the reader and the recorder were switching the votes – only to cancel each other out and end up with the correct vote being cast.
It’s a bizarre process, and I thank God the balance of power in the House doesn’t hang on NM-01. It would be a long time, as it will in Virginia, before we had a resolution. In New Mexico, that’s just how we do things.