Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesShawna Bruhn, office manager at the County Clerk’s Office, checks the provisional ballots from the polls on Wednesday,
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Shawna Bruhn, office manager at the County Clerk's Office, checks the provisional ballots from the polls on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (Augusta Liddic)
FARMINGTON — San Juan County's polling stations processed more than 46,000 ballots Tuesday with only a few minor and isolated issues.

The general election was the first big test for the county clerk's Voting Convenience Center model. Voters were able to cast their ballots at any of the 23 centers, rather than being tied to a neighborhood precinct. It was first tried for the smaller primary election in June.

"I think it went exceptionally well," said County Clerk Debbie Holmes. "We had very few problems with any of the equipment."

Waits to vote varied, but at most polling places, voters waited only a few minutes or not at all. The longest lines were reported at the Bloomfield Cultural Center and Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

The county still has 788 ballots to count. Most of those are provisional ballots that will be included in the formal canvas that begins today. Most local races were decided by large margins, so the provisional ballots are unlikely to change any results.

The closest contest was for magistrate judge. Trudy Reed led Gary McDaniel by only 223 votes.

Several voters said in interviews that they prefer the Voting Convenience Center model, which replaces traditional precincts.

"It's a great idea," said Kris Reinhardt, 54, who cast her ballot at Farmington Museum. "You can go to whatever's closest to you."

Clara Mason, 77, also voiced support for the Voting Convenience Centers. She cast her ballot at the Farmington Public Library.


"It's kind of neat," she said.

Added Mandy Shaffer, 30, who voted at the museum: "I like it. I don't know where I'm going to be or what I'm doing. It's convenient."

If there is any drawback to the new model, it may be that some voters have to drive longer distances to vote, Holmes said.

County Commissioner Margaret McDaniel said it may be confusing to some voters. "It's really difficult for a lot of people because they just don't understand it yet," she said.

San Juan County maintained 12 traditional polling places on portions of the Navajo Nation. That was done to reduce the distance between polling places on the sprawling reservation, and because of limited Internet connectivity in rural areas.

"A lot of places don't have it, or it's not reliable enough to run the system," Holmes said.

The Board of County Commissioners is empowered to act as the canvassing board, but commissioners typically delegate that authority to the clerk's office to conduct the vote canvas.

Only a few problems were reported Tuesday. Computers at the library briefly crashed, which temporarily lengthened the wait, said Gordon Glass, presiding judge at that location.

The clerk's office late Tuesday gave up on printing out provisional ballots at the headquarters in Aztec, and empowered the Convenience Centers to print their own.

"We were trying to do that here in the office for everybody," Holmes said. "We finally decided to let each Voting Convenience Center do their own. It was much easier. That was just something we had to learn, I guess."

Glass predicted the model would become easier with repetition. "After this election it's not going to be as big a deal," he said.

Elected officials also said they were on board with Voting Convenience Centers.

"It saves a lot of logistics. Early voting is popular," said state Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington. "I think it's a good idea."

State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, also voiced support for the model.

"I actually like it," he said. "Especially here. You've got a lot of people who live in Aztec and work in Farmington, or live in Bloomfield and work in Farmington. It's a lot easier if you've got a little time in the middle of the day to just run over there than wait till the end of the day and run back to your precinct."