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SANTA FE – The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday it would have federal monitors on the ground in two New Mexico counties – Bernalillo and San Juan – on Election Day to ensure compliance with federal voting rights laws.
The announcement comes as state and county elections officials are readying for a high-stakes Election Day that could feature elevated political tensions and claims of voting irregularities.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has voiced concern about the potential for disruptive poll challengers at voting locations, and the Democratic secretary of state has clashed in the past with state Republican Party officials over ballot drop boxes and other voting protocols.
In addition, some New Mexico county commissioners faced pressure not to certify the primary election results in June due to voting integrity questions. In Otero County, commissioners also voted to approve the results after the state Supreme Court ordered them to do so.
The U.S. Justice Department did not provide information Monday about why the different sites had been selected for federal monitoring, but they include some of the most populous counties in the nation.
The two New Mexico counties are among 64 counties in 24 different states that will have federal monitors on hand, with others including Miami-Dade County in Florida, Maricopa County in Arizona and Los Angeles County in California, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The federal monitors will include staffers from the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico, who will coordinate with state and local election officials.
Mario Jimenez, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said having the federal monitors on site could send a message to any poll challengers or candidates who, intentionally or unintentionally, spread misinformation on Election Day.
“It’s certainly a good thing that we have those election officials on the ground,” Jimenez told the Journal.
He also pointed out both Bernalillo County and San Juan County border tribal lands, saying Native American voters have faced voting challenges in some recent elections, including the 2020 general election cycle in which some polling places were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.