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Liquor Sales Measure Appeared on the Wrong Ballots

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Whiskey of the West (copy)

John Bernasconi, who owns an Alcalde-based micro-distillery, demonstrates how a grist hydrator is used in his operation.

Rio Arriba County officials discovered Thursday (11/7) that voters in Española and the village of Chama voted on the Alcoholic Beverages bond question, but only County residents living outside of incorporated areas were supposed to be allowed to vote.

County election staff mistakenly understood that the question was for all residents of the County to answer, according to County Clerk Linda Padilla, as the County had submitted the ballot question to Bureau of Elections Chief Michele Jordan.

“I guess the resolution was kind of vague, and being that the County put it through, we just though it was a County issue,” Padilla said Friday.

The bond question states, “Shall Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages by the drink for consumption on the licensed premises of licensees be allowed in this local option district?”

Under state law, at the county level a “local option district” consists of the remaining portions of the county outside of incorporated municipalities, according to a February 2009 New Mexico Attorney General’s Office opinion.

County Manager Tomas Campos said the question was posed to voters because businesses outside of Española and Chama wanted to be able to sell liquour on Sundays. Currently businesses in unincorporated areas cannot serve alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

According to the incorrect results, which included voters from Española and Chama, 2,581 people voted against the resolution and 2,487 voted for it, so it did not pass.

Using a server that retains images of the ballots, Jordan was able to calculate correct results, excluding voters from Española and Chama. A majority of voters still voted against the resolution: 2158 voted against it and 2118 voted for it.

Padilla said that County Attorney Adan Trujillo, who was not immediately available for comment, is working to resolve the issue.

“It’s a fixable issue,” she said.

Jordan noted a couple other problems that resulted from election staff and voter confusion: while attaching street files to voter records, Jordan confused addresses on US-64. US-84, and US 64-84, so she included three voters within Chama city limits who were supposed to vote outside of the limits; and many voters were not aware that they could not register and vote on Election Day, so they had to cast provisional ballots, meaning that their voting elegibility had to be examined before their votes could count.

“I wish I could say it was perfect,” Jordan said. “I’m not.”

The revelation about the Alcoholic Beverages bond question came two days after the SUN discovered that a question about a plan to create a community college tax district was missing from Taos ballots.

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