Long lines at the polls on Election Day resulted in the blame game, with some residents faulting the City of Rio Rancho for the lengthy wait and the Sandoval County clerk blaming the inherent nature of the election process.
Some voters waited up to five hours in line, by some accounts, to cast their ballots at one of Rio Rancho’s five voting locations. At 7 p.m., the time the polls officially closed, more than 300 people were waiting to vote at Puesta del Sol Elementary School.
Former Rio Rancho city manager James Jimenez, volunteering as a poll challenger at Puesta del Sol on Election Day from 7 a.m. to midnight, said he watched the line grow as each hour passed.
“At 7:45 a.m. the line grew from an hour or hour-and-half (wait) and from there continued to grow, “ Jimenez said, adding that he had spoken with people who told him they had waited for close to five hours.
Sandoval County clerk Sally Padilla said the long lines were inevitable.
“As far as long lines on Election Day, it always happens and it will continue to happen,” Padilla said. “I don’t care how easy you make it for people; there will always be long lines.”
Forty-eight of the county’s 86 precincts are in Rio Rancho, but that city had only five voting locations on Election Day for a population of more than 89,000 residents. By comparison, the town of Bernalillo had the same number of polling sites with 10 times fewer residents than Rio Rancho.
Although some residents in Rio Rancho complained that the city was at fault for the long lines, it’s the county that oversees the voting process, including determining the number of locations.
It wasn’t until around 11 p.m. that the last voters cast their ballots, and those ballots were delivered to be counted, meaning that Sandoval County was much later than some other counties in posting the election results. By around midnight only 21 percent of ballots in Sandoval County had been counted, according to the county’s website, while almost half of the state’s 33 counties had all of their results in, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State website.
Final results for Sandoval County – barring 400 provisional ballots being counted Thursday – weren’t posted online until after 1 a.m. Wednesday, which frustrated candidates awaiting results of the election.
Newly elected Sandoval county clerk Eileen Garbagni, who begins her term in January, said in an email she “feel(s) for all the people that were unable to vote” and she’ll make sure Tuesday’s mishap doesn’t happen again.
“The Bureau of Elections will have to go back to getting a polling place for each precinct,” Garbagni said. “There are too many registered voters in Rio Rancho not to get back (to) the way it was.”