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Excerpt: "Roughly 8,000 ballots were the deciding factor in who was elected to the 2nd Congressional District seat. Poll workers at the Doña Ana County election warehouse spent hours sorting through thousands of absentee ballots Wednesday."

Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. (photo: AP)
Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. (photo: AP)

NM-D Xochitl Torres Small Wins House Race After Thousands of Ballots Reappear


08 November 18


oughly 8,000 ballots were the deciding factor in who was elected to the 2nd Congressional District seat. Poll workers at the Doña Ana County election warehouse spent hours sorting through thousands of absentee ballots Wednesday.

After an additional day of counting ballots, Democratic Xochitl Torres Small was named the winner in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District race.

Torres Small gave an emotional victory speech shortly after the secretary of state called the race. “This process doesn't fix our challenges. Only working together will do that. That's why I am so grateful for everyone who has stood up in this moment to work together.”

She thanked a lot of people, including her team and parents.

“My dad who was born here, his parents started as field workers, who is living to see his daughter become a member of Congress.”

During her speech, Torres Small also recapped some topics that were at the forefront of her campaign.

“Making sure we have health care that we can pay for, that we have health care that we can access so people don't have to drive miles to visit their doctor.”

KOAT asked our political analyst, Brian Sanderoff, why it took so long for the race to be called. He said the situation is a little unusual.

“We expect the absentee ballots to be put into the mix the night of the election. In this case, in Doña Ana County, they were not. We didn't know until after midnight,” Sanderoff said.

Sanderoff said initial results after the polls close are typically from early voting and absentee ballots on Election Day. Sanderoff said all absentee ballots must be counted, just like early voting and ballots submitted on Election Day.

“We had an unprecedented amount. We weren't expecting it, and we frankly didn't have the people infrastructure in place,” Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda Lopez Askin said.

On Tuesday, the absentee voter board, which is comprised of seven people, spent 16 hours sorting the ballots but was only able to tabulate half.

“We had triple to quadruple the number of absentee ballots this year compared to 2016 and 2014,” Lopez Askin said.

At midnight, the county clerk saw the fatigue and swollen hands of the workers and put a halt to the counting.

“I didn't want them to make mistakes, and it wasn’t reasonable or right for me to expect them to work throughout the night to complete that,” Lopez Askin said.

Five members of the Torres Small campaign, as well five members from Republican Yvette Herrell's campaign, were deputized as poll workers to help get through all the votes Wednesday.

“This is a vote. It’s an important document that we want to make sure is counted. There's an appropriate way to do it, and it isn't always fast, and it shouldn't be fast if we want to do it right,” Lopez Askin said.

All 17 workers together opened envelopes, sorted and helped tabulate the votes.

The district covers southern New Mexico. It is being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce, who attempted to run for governor.

Herrell's campaign released the following statement Wednesday evening:

"Last night, we heard from Xochitl Torres Small that it was extremely important that every vote be counted," said Rob Burgess, senior advisor to the Herrell campaign. "This campaign believes that should be the case and we look forward to seeing the results from all provisional ballots throughout the district."

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+1 # economagic 2018-11-08 18:23
Great story, and entirely in the spirit of the upside of this mixed bag of an election. Lots of women and people of color elected, including women of color from backgrounds most of us middle-class whiteys would not immediately think of. Also a lot of young and politically aware people, and the largest turnout as a percentage of eligible voters since 1966.

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