Editor’s note: The Journal continues its series of stories focusing on key races in this year’s general election.
SANTA FE – The race to serve as New Mexico’s next secretary of state resembles a referendum on the state’s election system itself.
The incumbent seeking reelection, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, has served as New Mexico’s chief elections officer for six years and testified before Congress on election administration.
Her Republican opponent, Audrey Trujillo, has cast doubt on the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory in New Mexico – a race he won by almost 100,000 votes – and is part of a national candidate coalition that promotes sweeping election changes, such as an end to early voting and mail-in ballots.
Also running is Libertarian Mayna Myers, who hasn’t reported any fundraising activity and didn’t respond to a Journal interview request.
Toulouse Oliver, who served for 10 years as Bernalillo County clerk and six as secretary of state, is campaigning as a leader who has defended New Mexico elections from false attacks and ensured voters’ will is respected.
“I’ve been running or overseeing elections in the state for 16 years now,” she said in a recent interview. “Under my tenure, we have run fair, accurate elections that folks of both parties have won.”
Trujillo, whose campaign declined a Journal interview request, has pushed for broad changes. She has advocated for new limits on absentee voting, restricting the option “to only disabled, elderly, military and voters who are temporarily out of the state on business,” according to her website.
The race comes amid intense scrutiny on election systems throughout the country following former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of a rigged 2020 election.
Social media posts
Trujillo has cast doubt on the integrity of New Mexico elections. Her Facebook account, for example, shared video of her appearing for an interview with Steve Bannon – who served as a strategist under Trump – in which she questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in New Mexico, citing, in part, that she had seen more Trump signs than Biden signs in the state.
In another Facebook post earlier this year, she urged counties to refuse to certify the primary election results until a hand tally of ballots was done.
The state’s post-election audits show that counting ballots by hand produces strikingly similar results to the machine tabulation, with the small differences potentially due to mistakes in the hand count, not errors by the machines.
The state also tests the machines before every election and requires recounts for close races.
Trujillo, meanwhile, is also part of the America First coalition of secretary of state candidates – a group that suggests on its website that “the global establishment” has sought to undermine election integrity, with help from George Soros, the philanthropist and target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Trujillo faced criticism earlier this year after one of her social media accounts shared a post suggesting Jews had outsized influence in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. In a Journal interview in May, she suggested her account had been hacked or that she might not have seen the Star of David images next to people’s faces in the vaccine tweet.
“If it was tweeted by me – which I said I don’t recall these tweets – that’s not something I would say, in terms of anything with Jewish or racist intent at all,” Trujillo said.
Toulouse Oliver, for her part, said that if reelected, she will seek legislation that would restore a person’s voting rights after incarceration, establish a Native American Voting Rights Act and create a permanent absentee list for voters who want to receive an absentee ballot in every election.
“For our democracy to continue to survive and to thrive,” Toulouse Oliver said, “we need to maximize participation, and we can do that at the same time as ensuring integrity and accuracy.”
In 2018, she pushed for New Mexico to bring back straight-party voting, though the Supreme Court blocked her from unilaterally making the policy change.
Toulouse Oliver has a substantial financial advantage over Trujillo. The incumbent has raised about $582,000 during the election cycle, and Trujillo has raised $74,000.