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SANTA FE – New Mexico has closed the books on a 2022 election cycle that saw a record-high number of votes cast in a midterm election, even as a Supreme Court case still looms to resolve gerrymandering claims.
The three-member State Canvassing Board voted unanimously Tuesday to certify the general election results, while also ordering recounts in two state House races – one in northwest Albuquerque and one in southwest New Mexico – in which candidates were separated by less than 1 percentage point.
In all, this year’s general election featured 714,754 votes cast – or 52.4% of registered voters.
While voter turnout fell short of 2018 levels by percentage, the raw number of ballots cast exceeded the number of votes from four years ago.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who wore a face mask after testing positive last week for COVID-19, said during Tuesday’s hearing at the Roundhouse she was “really proud” of how New Mexico’s general election was carried out in a safe and professional manner.
The Democratic governor won reelection to a second four-year term, defeating Republican Mark Ronchetti in a hotly contested race that could wind up being the most expensive race for governor in New Mexico’s history.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who also was reelected to another term, told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting her office dealt with threats and frequent hacking attempts in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election day, but said all such attempts were rebuffed.
“We have such a robust net that we’re able to catch those things,” she said.
Toulouse Oliver also said she planned to renew her push during the upcoming 60-day legislative session to restore the voting rights of individuals convicted of a felony when they leave incarceration, rather than requiring them to complete probation or parole.
A bill including that and other voting-related provisions stalled due to a Senate Republican filibuster on the final day of this year’s legislative session.
In addition, Toulouse Oliver said her office would take a wait-and-see approach to legislative proposals that would open the door to ranked-choice voting in statewide elections.
At least two states – Alaska and Maine – have already enacted ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, while Santa Fe and Las Cruces have adopted the voting method for their city elections.
“I would like for voters to become more familiar with it and see if it’s something they like,” Toulouse Oliver said.
Backers of ranked-choice voting say it ensures that winning candidates, especially in crowded primary elections, don’t triumph with just a plurality of votes, but instead with at least 50% of support from voters. It works by eliminating the lowest vote-getting candidate in a race, if no candidate has hit the 50% mark, and reallocating votes for that candidate to a voter’s second-choice candidate.
Meanwhile, the secretary of state also said proposed changes are being studied to New Mexico’s system for certifying election results, after some county commissioners initially balked at approving voting results from the June primary election.
While all 33 county commissions ultimately voted to sign off on the election results, some faced pressure not to do so from constituents and others who voiced unsubstantiated concerns about the state’s vote-counting machines.
Democrats swept all statewide races on the ballot this year – including governor and secretary of state – and also won in all three New Mexico congressional districts.
However, Republicans have alleged that Democrat Gabe Vasquez’s narrow victory over Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell in the southern New Mexico-based 2nd Congressional District was due to the district’s boundary lines being redrawn last year during the once-per-decade task of redistricting.
The state GOP has filed a court challenge accusing the Democratic-controlled Legislature of “political gerrymandering” by splitting conservative-leaning southeast New Mexico into different districts in an attempt to give Democrats a better chance at winning all three congressional seats.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for Jan. 9.
House District 32
Republican Jennifer Jones leads Democrat Candie Sweetser by 46-vote margin – 3,789 to 3,743 – in district that includes Deming and New Mexico’s Bootheel region, according to unofficial results. Recount will begin Dec. 5.
House District 68
Democrat Charlotte Little leads Republican Robert Moss by 36-vote margin – 5,650 to 5,614 – in Albuquerque-based district, according to unofficial results. Recount will begin Dec. 8.