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Officials in New Mexico’s largest county have voted to certify the results of the recent primary election, saying they have faith in the integrity of the local system.
Bernalillo County commissioners had received messages asking – or, in some cases, demanding – they refuse certification until other actions had occurred, like a hand recount and forensic audit. Citing that skepticism, commissioners took time Friday morning to explain themselves during what typically would be a quick and perfunctory certification process.
Walt Benson, the only Republican on the five-member commission, said he had talked with constituents who raised concerns about certifying. But he said he also spoke to County Clerk Linda Stover, whose office runs elections. He said he was satisfied that the county’s process is secure.
“There’s been no evidence presented that in Bernalillo County that unethical practices happened,” Benson said. “No evidence at all.”
Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 presidential race have helped sow doubt nationwide about election results, with officials in one southern New Mexico community garnering national attention earlier this week by declining to certify primary election results and citing their distrust of the voting machines. The New Mexico Supreme Court subsequently ordered the Otero County Commission – made up of all Republicans – to complete the certification so the state Canvassing Board can ratify the election results later this month.
The primary results set the stage for the Nov. 8 general election.
While commissioners in some other New Mexico jurisdictions were jeered by audience members during their certification votes this week, Bernalillo County held its meeting via Zoom video conference. There was no public comment.
Benson joined his peers – acting as Bernalillo County’s Board of Canvass – to certify the primary results on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Debbie O’Malley was not present, though she told the Journal earlier this week she had no reason to oppose certification, saying Stover and her staff “do a very thorough job and they make sure everything is on the up and up.”
Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty is the only board member up for reelection this cycle. She lost in the June 7 primary and will leave office this year, but said she maintains trust in the county’s systems even though the outcome was not what she’d wanted.
Pyskoty said she had explored the questions that election critics raised in emails, finding them without merit. She said she has visited the county’s voting machine warehouse and seen the “redundancies” in place to ensure accurate counts.
Politics may be “dirty,” she said, but county elections run “clean.”
“While the results may not always be what we had hoped, it’s important to acknowledge that votes are accurately counted and that the voice of the voters has been heard and recorded,” Pyskoty said. “Therefore it’s my honor to fulfill my legal duty as a county commissioner and certify the results of the primary election.”
Chief Deputy County Clerk Jaime Diaz told the commission Friday that the election had been canvassed – an auditing process that checks the number of ballots printed/requested and the number of ballots fed into the machines.
“We are balanced,” he said. “We have no defective returns.”
Diaz said 85,843 eligible registered voters cast ballots for the June 7 primary, representing a 25.4% turnout.
Election officials rejected 128 of the 11,461 absentee ballots received because they were not signed or had other issues, but they contacted the voters and provided an opportunity to fix the problem, Diaz said. Poll workers also issued 39 “provisional” ballots to those not immediately located in the voter database, but only 16 of those were subsequently deemed qualified and counted.