The state's top elections official says her office is on track for a successful election season, following the addition of new personnel.***image1***
However, Secretary of State Mary Herrera denied SFR's requests for interviews with the new hires and failed to answer some questions regarding their qualifications.
Last week, SFR reported that the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) lacked a voting machine supervisor, a position mandated by state law [Outtakes, Jan. 9: "Voter Beware"ï¿½].
Furthermore, the story noted that an organizational chart for the SOS, submitted to the Ethics Subcommittee of the Legislative Council on Oct. 24, erroneously listed three staffers in that position.
In a recent interview with SFR, Secretary of State Mary Herrera says her office has hired Anita Baca as a new voting machine supervisor.
"We're ready for the elections coming up,"ï¿½ she says. "I'm trying to work on manuals for poll workers and just trying to make the '08 election smoother for county clerks."ï¿½
Herrera did not provide information on Baca's experience with elections or voting machines.
As for the chart, Herrera says she undertook a staff reorganization shortly after she took office in early 2007. "We noticed that people in here were performing duties with titles that didn't match,"ï¿½ she says. "We just realigned the agency."ï¿½
Herrera also has hired a new Bureau of Elections administrator: Daniel Miera.
However, neither Herrera nor SOS public information officer, James Flores, would grant interviews with the new employees; according to an e-mail from Herrera, "all media questions"ï¿½ can only be answered by Herrera or Flores.
Furthermore, e-mailed questions regarding Baca's and Miera's employment histories were not fully answered. SFR has subsequently filed requests under the state Inspection of Public Records Act for the information, the response to which is still pending.
Herrera did note both Baca and Miera will attend trainings with Rio Rancho-based Automated Election Services (AES) next week.
AES owner Don Anderson confirms both will receive training on the use of precinct tabulators for in-person and early voting as well as batch-count tabulators for absentee ballots. Anderson says the initial training will extend "no more than two days, but there will have to be subsequent training."ï¿½ He says the training will lead to certification.
Miera, the new Bureau of Elections administrator, began his new job this month. According to a job posting filed with the State Personnel Office last year, the newly created job has a salary range of $68,016 to $87,048 and its duties include equipping polling places on election day, tabulating election returns, as well as appointing and training polling-place election officers. The job posting indicated prospective applicants must have a bachelor's degree as well as eight years of management experience.
Miera is the former assistant town manager in Taos but, according to the Town of Taos' Human Resources Department, served in that position less than eight months. His last day was Jan. 4.
Although neither Herrera nor Flores responded to questions regarding Miera's salary, age or management experience, Herrera did note that Miera was deemed qualified by the State Personnel Office and that he has a master's degree in public administration with a specialization in public policy. According to Herrera, there were 60 applicants for the job and she personally screened the applicants "because this position is so important."ï¿½
Former Santa Fe City Manager Asenath Kepler says she was one of the finalists for the job.
"It was very clear that it was going to be a demanding, challenging position and that's why I was interested,"ï¿½ she says. "I found the process very professional."ï¿½
Some elections officials say election experience is the most important qualification for the job.
"I would take someone who has 10 years elections experience over a master's degree any day of the week,"ï¿½ San Juan County Clerk Fran Hanhardt says.
Hanhardt says county clerks are ultimately responsible for smooth elections, but that the SOS should be helping with training"ï¿½but isn't.
"Training is probably the one thing we've been lacking and screaming for,"ï¿½ she says. "We've been waiting and waiting for the Secretary of State's Office to either re-enter into a contract with AES to get us trained or for them to do the training themselves. They keep saying the trainings are going to happen, but we're still waiting."ï¿½