RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) - Frustrated voters who waited for more than four hours to cast their ballots were hoping to give election officials an earful Wednesday night but were told they were going to have to wait again.
The Sandoval County Canvassing Board met to give Bureau of Elections Director Eddie Gutierrez the go-ahead to begin the official counting of ballots. Many Rio Rancho voters, who waited in long lines to vote, were told public comment had to wait until the Nov. 16 meeting.
"No public comment," said voter Todd Hathorne. "They're blocking us from being able to present information that changes the outcome."
There are very close races in Sandoval County.
In Senate District 9, incumbent Democrat John Sapien is just 139 votes ahead of Republican David Doyle. Only 69 votes separate GOP Paul Pacheco and Democrat Marci Blaze in a contested House race.
Only five voting centers with a total of 15 ballot-printing machines were in place to accommodate 30,000 registered Rio Rancho voters. By contrast, heavily Democratic Bernalillo had ten printing machines but only a tenth of Rio Rancho's population.
"I am angry, flat out angry," said Hathorne. "I believe it was intentional."
Rio Rancho tilts Republican, and many voters think the county's Democratic election officials created this mess on purpose to turn people away.
"If people perceive something is not right, then it's not right," said angry voter Patricial Morlen.
But county officials said that isn't the case, saying they requested more ballot printers but were denied because of state budget issues. The Secretary of State said that was not the case.
KRQE News 13 asked Gutierrez why voters had to wait so long and how many provisional ballots were left to count, but he did not answer our questions, only saying that we will "get that at the proper time."