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NM safe from ballot fraud, elections chief says

SANTA FE – Outgoing New Mexico Secretary of State Brad Winter said Tuesday that state residents can be confident in the outcomes of this month’s general election, disputing a suggestion from President-elect Donald Trump about widespread illegal voting.

Brad Winter

Brad Winter

Winter, a Republican who was appointed to the office last year and did not seek election in this year’s election, said there have been isolated incidents of voter fraud in New Mexico, but that the state has ample safeguards in place to prevent sweeping irregularities.

“We have such a great system, because everything is backed up by a paper ballot,” Winter told the Journal after a meeting of the State Canvassing Board.

“There’s nothing on that scale,” he then added, referring to Trump’s recent claim on social media that “millions” of people around the country voted illegally in the Nov. 8 general election.

More than 804,000 New Mexicans – or about 62.4 percent of those registered – cast ballots in the Nov. 8 general election, according to official vote results that were certified Tuesday by the canvassing board.

Although Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the national election, she defeated Trump in New Mexico, receiving about 48.3 percent of the votes cast in the race, compared with 40 percent for Trump. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, got more than 9.3 percent of the votes cast in New Mexico, his strongest showing in any state and a total that puts the Libertarian Party on track to have major party status for the 2018 election cycle.

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.

Winter said it would be all but impossible to hack into New Mexico’s vote-counting system, saying, “There’s no way you could do that with us.”

No evidence has surfaced to back Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud, but New Mexico’s previous secretary of state, Dianna Duran, also raised the issue of ineligible voters casting ballots. Duran eventually scaled back her claims. She resigned from office in December 2015 after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds.

Meanwhile, Gov. Susana Martinez also expressed confidence in the election results during Tuesday’s meeting at the state Capitol and praised the work done by staffers in the Secretary of State’s Office.

“It’s nice to have some confidence in our electoral process,” Martinez said.

Per state law, the canvassing board ordered state-paid vote recounts in three legislative races in which the candidates are separated by vote margins of less than 1 percent. Those recounts will begin today and are expected to be finished by next week.

The three races are:

• House District 29 – Incumbent Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, holds a 9-vote lead over Democratic challenger Ronnie Martinez in a race with nearly 14,000 votes cast. The district encompasses part of Albuquerque’s West Side.

• House District 23 – Democrat Daymon Ely of Corrales holds a 102-vote lead over GOP incumbent Paul Pacheco of Albuquerque. The district includes parts of Corrales and Albuquerque.

• Senate District 9 – Incumbent John Sapien, D-Corrales, holds a 198-vote lead over Republican challenger Diego Espinoza of Rio Rancho. The district includes Placitas and parts of Bernalillo, Corrales and Albuquerque.

In an interview Tuesday, Adkins said he was confident about keeping his House seat after votes are recounted, saying, “I’m pressing on like I’ll be there next year.”

His Democratic opponent indicated he wasn’t holding out hope for the 9-vote deficit to be overturned.

“I’ll just wait to see what happens, and God will put me where I need to be,” Martinez told the Journal .

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