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SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Otero County commissioners to certify primary election results by the end of this week, raising the stakes of a dispute over election integrity issues that has generated national attention.
The ruling by the state’s highest court came one day after Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver filed a petition, arguing the county commission’s refusal to approve the June 7 election results violates state election law and could nullify votes.
The three-member Otero County Commission, in its role as a county canvassing board, voted unanimously Monday against certifying the primary election results, with commissioners raising concerns over Dominion vote-counting machines used by the state.
But top state election officials have described the concerns as unfounded conspiracy theories, while also accusing the all-Republican county commission of flouting its responsibility.
Mario Jimenez, campaign director for Common Cause New Mexico, said the county commission’s refusal to approve election results is not based on any evidence, but rather on personal bias and conjecture.
“We cannot stand by as we watch dangerous misinformation spread, risking not only the voices of Otero County voters, but something larger,” Jimenez said Wednesday. “If allowed to stand, these actions may embolden other counties around the country and here in New Mexico, to use this same national playbook to disenfranchise the will of the people.”
The Supreme Court’s order directs Otero County commissioners to meet their duties to certify the primary election by Friday, so the state Canvassing Board can ratify the election results on June 28.
Two Supreme Court justices who are running for election this year – Julie Vargas and Briana Zamora – recused themselves, while the court’s three other justices concurred in the ruling.
If the Otero County commission refuses to follow the Supreme Court order, county commissioners could potentially face legal repercussions.
Those consequences could include financial penalties or being removed from office, said Daniel Ivey-Soto, a state senator and former executive director of the New Mexico county clerks affiliate.
He said county canvassing boards have the power to correct errors in the post-election canvass, but are required to then approve the results under state law.
While Otero County commissioners have not voted to certify the primary election results, they instead voted last week to recount ballots by hand, remove state-mandated ballot drop boxes that facilitate absentee voting and discontinue the use of Dominion vote-tabulation machines in the general election.
But Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes, a Republican, said she does not have the authority to take such actions.
“The election law does not allow me to hand tally these ballots, or to even form a board to do it. I just can’t,” said Holmes, according to The Associated Press. “And I’m going to follow the law.”
New Mexico currently uses paper ballots in all elections, which are then rapidly tallied by vote-counting machines.
The results of elections are randomly audited under state law to verify levels of accuracy in the vote count.
Meanwhile, one of the three members of the Otero County commission is Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin, who was convicted in January of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, but acquitted of a separate charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct.
Griffin, who has argued he led others in prayer at the Capitol, is scheduled for sentencing Friday.
He and other county commissioners did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions about whether a special hearing would be called before the court-imposed deadline.