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Court denies GOP motion on ballots

Voters stand in line to cast their ballots at the Holly Plaza Early Voting Place near Paseo del Norte NE in Albuquerque on Friday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Voters stand in line to cast their ballots at the Holly Plaza Early Voting Place near Paseo del Norte NE in Albuquerque on Friday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A state district judge on Tuesday rejected the Republican Party’s request to prohibit the counting of some absentee ballots in Doña Ana County.

The judge said the plaintiffs in the case – the state GOP and Las Cruces mayoral candidate Mike Tellez – hadn’t complied with court rules requiring notice to the election officials who are defendants in the case.

In his three-page decision, Judge James T. Martin also said Doña Ana County’s initial handling of absentee ballots appeared to comply with state law.

Furthermore, Martin said, the plaintiffs in the case knew about the processing of absentee ballots as early as Thursday morning “yet waited until the last hour of the last day before the election” to file their emergency motion.

“Therefore, the claim of irreparable harm rings hollow,” Martin wrote in his order.

The Republican Party and Tellez had filed a lawsuit late Friday in 3rd Judicial District Court accusing election officials of preparing to improperly count ballots that are missing some of the required voter identification information.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a defendant in the case, and other election officials say the handling of absentee ballots complies with state law.

In a written statement, Alex Curtas, a spokesman for Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said the Secretary of State’s Office “remains laser-focused on making sure every vote is counted properly, and it’s a shame that the Republican Party is questioning the integrity of our elections and attempting to make it harder for qualified voters to cast their ballots.”

Steve Pearce, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the legal battle isn’t over.

“Today’s decision doesn’t diminish the validity of our suit,” he said in a written statement. “Our position is that the New Mexico Secretary of State is wrong, and we will continue our suit and the fight to ensure elections in our state are fair. We will continue to fight for all voters and stand with them for an honest election system.”

New Mexico voters cast ballots Tuesday in the state’s first consolidated local election under a new state law. School districts, municipalities and other local agencies have candidates, bond proposals and other items were on the ballot.

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