- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The recount in the race for New Mexico land commissioner is a step closer to getting underway.

The state canvassing board met Tuesday and signed off on an agreement that spells out how the recount will proceed. At issue was how many ballots would be used to test the tabulating machines that will be used in the recount.

The agreement came after several days of negotiations.

Incumbent Democrat Ray Powell said Tuesday evening that his attorney was reviewing the agreement and he planned the drop his case before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday. That will clear the way for the recount to begin Thursday.

“Our intention is to ensure an open and transparent process and that every vote is counted,” Powell said.

The latest totals provided by the secretary of state’s office show Republican Aubrey Dunn leading Powell by several hundred votes, a margin so small it triggered an automatic recount under state law.

The recount, which was scheduled to start Monday, was put on hold after Powell filed a petition over how the count was going to be conducted.

This marks the first recount in a statewide race since New Mexico enacted a law in 2008 for automatic recounts when the margin between the top two candidates is less than 0.5 percent.

Rod Adair, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said the agreement embodies the zero percent error rate the canvassing board has insisted is mandatory in recounting an election.

Under the agreement, each county will use 100 ballots or 2 percent of the total ballots cast in that county, whichever is greater, to test the tabulators.

More than 22,000 ballots statewide will be used to test tabulators before the count begins, Adair said.

State elections officials have said they expect the process to take a couple of days. The canvassing board expects to meet next week to certify the election results.

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