Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico closed the books – for the most part – on a primary election cycle marked by conspiracy theories and legal warnings, as top state officials on Tuesday certified election results that showed 25.2% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the June 7 primary.
Unlike during recent county commission meetings, the meeting did not feature any protesters, and members of the state Canvassing Board moved quickly to approve the election results and automatic recounts in six local-level races around the state.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, one of the board’s three members, told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting at the state Capitol that possible changes in state law could be considered to make sure county commissions cannot effectively block voting results from being certified.
Otero County commissioners initially balked at approving the primary election results, but two of the three commissioners voted to certify on June 17 after the state Supreme Court ordered them to do so.
Meanwhile, commissioners in several other New Mexico counties also faced political pressure, including jeers and insults in some cases, not to certify election results due to distrust over Dominion vote-tabulating machines and other misgivings before eventually doing so.
“County commissions do not have the ability to make state election law – the state Legislature does – and it’s my job to carry out the law and the Supreme Court’s job to make sure it’s being carried out,” Toulouse Oliver said.
She also said the Secretary of State’s Office would continue trying to educate voters and encouraged state residents to volunteer as poll workers.
“If you have concerns about the integrity of the election, put your money where your mouth is and go work at the polls and be part of making sure the election is run legally,” Toulouse Oliver said.
Since 2006, New Mexico has used a paper ballot system that requires most voters to manually mark ballots and feed them into electronic vote tabulating machines. The system allows elections officials to recount paper ballots if necessary but not by hand tally, Toulouse Oliver said.
Of the 263,337 registered voters who cast ballots in this year’s primary election, slightly more than half voted on Election Day, while 40% took advantage of early voting and 9% cast absentee ballots, according to the Democratic secretary of state.
The overall turnout marked the highest figure by number – but not by percentage – for a primary election in recent New Mexico history.
Toulouse Oliver and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who are both seeking reelection in November’s general election, voted to certify the statewide canvass. The board’s third member under state law, Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon, did not attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to a spokesman for the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Meanwhile, the present Canvassing Board members also voted Tuesday to order state-paid vote recounts in six races in which the candidates are separated by narrow vote margins. Those recounts will begin July 11 and are expected to be finished in just one or two days.
The races include a Mora County commission contest in which the top two vote-getters – Democrats George Trujillo and Trinnie Cordova – were separated by just five votes in a race with more than 1,250 votes cast.
The other races set for recounts include judicial races in Valencia and Catron counties, county commission races in Otero and Rio Arriba counties, and a Democratic primary race for Colfax County assessor.