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Return to sender: Some absentee ballots contained a barcode error on return envelope

The San Juan County Clerk said a barcode error on the return envelopes was quickly caught and the problem was addressed

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • County clerk says a postmaster caught the error.

AZTEC — San Juan County Clerk Tanya Shelby said a small number of voters in San Juan County who requested absentee ballots may have been affected by a barcode error on the return envelope that caused the ballots to be returned to the voter.

An alert postmaster caught the error and set things right. Shelby said she believes less than 50 San Juan County residents had ballots returned to them rather than being sent to the clerk's office. A press release sent out by San Juan County on Oct. 19 stated that potentially 20 voters had their ballots returned to them.

“We just have an amazing postmaster here in Aztec,” Shelby said.

Taos, San Juan counties ballots impacted

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Taos and San Juan counties were impacted. The New Mexican reported that 6,500 San Juan County voters were affected and 4,000 ballots sent to Taos County voters had the error as well.

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She said the postmaster caught the problem last week and notified the other post offices as well as the clerk’s office. Because of the quick action taken, the postal service was able to rectify the situation and ensure the ballots reached the county clerk's office rather than being returned to the voter.

Shelby said that is why only a small number of voters were impacted by the error.

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The return addresses listed on the envelopes were all correct and instructed the mail to be sent to the San Juan County Clerk's Office. However, the barcode produced by a vendor was rerouting the mail back to the voter. These ballots were produced by the vendor Robis Elections in Illinois.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the U.S. Postal Service is aware of the issue and has instituted procedures to ensure the ballots reach the county clerks' offices rather than being returned to the voter.

No reason to panic

As of the morning of Oct. 19, more than 10,800 San Juan County voters had requested absentee ballots.

The problems with the barcode are not a reason to panic, Shelby emphasized. She said if voters are concerned that their absentee ballot may have the barcode error they can drop the ballots off at the county clerk’s office at 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.

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The absentee ballots can also be taken to any of the other polling locations that are open for early voting in San Juan County.

Polling locations in San Juan County include:

  • Farmington Museum at Gateway Park
  • Farmington Public Library
  • Bloomfield Cultural Center
  • The Old Shiprock High A-Gym at the Central Consolidated School District Business Office 
  • Newcomb Fire Station

Absentee ballots can be tracked at nmvote.org.

Absentee ballots should be mailed back by Oct. 27. If the ballot is not postmarked by that date, voters should take it to the county clerk's office or a polling location in person and drop it off.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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