While the official nickname of New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment,” a more fitting characterization when it comes to election administration would be the “land of innovation.” This is evident across the state and especially in Albuquerque, where the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office is working hard to ensure the county’s more than 420,000 registered voters can cast their ballot with confidence.
During my trip to New Mexico last week, I came to Albuquerque to meet with County Clerk Linda Stover and her team to discuss ways the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) can best support local election officials ahead of the 2020 presidential election. I also spent my visit learning more about the unique approaches New Mexico and the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office are taking to ensure elections are secure, accessible, and efficient for all New Mexicans.
New Mexico can take a great deal of pride in the trendsetting – and award-winning – nature of its election officials. For example, the Secretary of State’s Office received a 2018 EAC Clearinghouse Award – better known as a “Clearie” – for Innovation in Elections for its implementation of a new electronic ballot software system that allowed blind or visually impaired voters to independently cast an absentee ballot. In the same year, Bernalillo County won its own Clearie Award for Best Practices in Recruiting, Training and Retaining Election Works for its “Learn the Vote” program, an election-worker training initiative designed to improve instruction for poll workers and reduce errors. The EAC was pleased to nationally recognize each of these programs and to share details about this work with election administrators from across the country.
Beyond these programs, New Mexico’s election officials are hard at work tackling a host of other vital election administration duties, including support for voters serving in our military or living overseas, as well as assistance for those voters with limited English proficiency. They are also focused on election security. Last year, for example, the state received nearly $3.7 million in newly appropriated Help America Vote Act funds, money it has invested in hiring a full-time IT security and compliance administrator whose responsibilities include implementing additional security practices to safeguard sensitive data and election systems, and protecting against cyber vulnerabilities. The state also purchased scan tabulation systems that feature ballot image capture and audit capabilities.
This focus on election security and ensuring all citizens are engaged in the election process is at the heart of why commissioners from the EAC are travelling around the country to meet with voters and election officials alike ahead of the 2020 federal elections. It’s also why we participate in national gatherings, such as the National Association of Secretaries of State conference last week in Santa Fe. Such federal and local partnerships are crucial to helping election officials set the stage for a 2020 presidential election rooted in enhanced security, accessibility and efficiency.
Voters, too, have a role to play. As we prepare for the 2020 presidential election, we encourage voters across Bernalillo County and throughout New Mexico to register to vote or verify that their current registration is up to date. In addition, please consider volunteering as an Election Day poll official. While state and local election administrators and the EAC work tirelessly to instill voter confidence and improve elections, nothing boosts confidence in our election system like directly being a part of the process.
As the 2020 presidential election approaches, my visits with voters and election officials across the nation have strengthened my confidence in the security and resiliency of our election systems, as well as our shared commitment to ensure that the election process is accessible for voters. It is essential that election officials here and throughout the nation continue their efforts to ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast their ballot with confidence, and it imperative for Americans to go to the polls and participate in our democracy.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is an independent and bipartisan commission established to help America vote.