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Trump campaign files last-ditch NM election lawsuit

Christopher Nalls puts his ballot in a drop box near the City-County Building in October. A lawsuit filed Monday by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign targets New Mexico’s use of the drop boxes. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – President Donald Trump’s legal effort to stop the 2020 election results from being made final hit New Mexico on Monday, even as the state’s five Democratic presidential electors cast their votes for Joe Biden in a largely empty state Capitol.

Trump’s reelection campaign filed a 42-page lawsuit in federal court against Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver that primarily targets the state’s use of absentee ballot drop boxes.

While it does not make any specific allegations of voting fraud or irregularities, the Trump campaign’s lawsuit alleges the state’s top election official overstepped her legal authority by authorizing use of the ballot drop boxes this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office called the lawsuit a “desperate attempt to undermine our lawful election in New Mexico” and predicted it would be swiftly dismissed.

Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Alex Curtas also pointed out that a previous state GOP lawsuit targeted at absentee ballot drop boxes was withdrawn in October after two county clerks agreed to make changes.

“Though our office has not been served, this lawsuit appears to be yet another attempt by the outgoing Trump administration to silence the voices of lawful voters throughout the country,” Curtas said in a statement.

Biden defeated Trump by a comfortable margin – 11 percentage points – in New Mexico, marking the fourth consecutive election cycle in which a Democratic presidential candidate has won the state’s five electoral votes.

The election results have already been certified by the State Canvassing Board, and the state’s five Democratic presidential electors officially cast their votes Monday for Biden.

Unlike in states such as Michigan, no police escort was necessary for New Mexico’s presidential electors.

They held their meeting without incident in a legislative committee room at the Roundhouse, which is currently closed to the general public due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign has also filed lawsuits contesting the election results and protocols in a number of other states – and has lost in nearly all of those court cases.

Steve Pearce, the chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, which worked with the Trump campaign on the lawsuit, called Monday’s court filing “valid and necessary.”

In addition, Pearce said the secretary of state’s actions had stained New Mexico’s election integrity.

The lawsuit was filed by Albuquerque attorney Mark Caruso, along with a Texas attorney, on behalf of Trump’s campaign.

It seeks a court-ordered canvass of all state absentee ballots – though all New Mexico counties have already conducted a vote canvass – and an investigation of ballot drop boxes.

In the meantime, the lawsuit seeks to bar the state’s presidential electors from taking part in the Electoral College and have the Legislature appoint new electors.

Even if such an order were to be granted, however, both New Mexico’s House and Senate are controlled by Democrats, and it’s all but certain lawmakers would appoint electors who would uphold the election results.

Under New Mexico law, it is a fourth-degree felony for designated electors to cast their ballot for anyone other than the presidential candidate who received the majority of the votes cast in the state.

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