Gov. Expected to Sign Measure Returning N.M. Counties to Old Voting System


17 February 2006

By Jeff Jones, Journal Politics Writer | Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE— A bill that would return all New Mexico counties to
paper-ballot voting is headed to Gov. Bill Richardson’s desk.

The Senate approved the controversial measure on a 22-18 vote after a
post-midnight debate early Thursday. The House had passed the same bill
during another predawn debate the previous morning, and Richardson has said
he supports the switch to paper ballots.

“The governor is very pleased,” Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino
said during a telephone interview later Thursday. Contarino added the bill
boosts “confidence in the future of New Mexico’s voting.”
During its trip through the Legislature, the bill was shorn of its
deadline date to convert counties to new paper-ballot voting systems. But
bill sponsor Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said Thursday she’s hoping
people across New Mexico will be marking paper ballots by the November 2007
general election.

Richardson and other bill backers have said paper-ballot voting systems
will help restore the public’s confidence in elections.

Opponents, however, questioned whether the systems are a true step
forward and insisted the costs will far exceed what supporters have said it
would be. They also maintained the bill amounts to an exclusive
multimillion-dollar state contract for a single manufacturer.

A separate bill approved by the Legislature earmarks $11 million for new
voting systems, and that money will be supplemented by millions more in
federal assistance.

The voting bill heading to Richardson mandates a “competitive bid
process” for the required election systems, pursuant to the state’s
procurement code. The procurement code in some cases does allow sole-source
contracts.

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