New Mexico State Auditor finds problems with Otero County’s election audit contract | Nicole MaxwellAlamogordo Daily News

The New Mexico Office of the State Auditor (OSA), issued a letter to Otero County on March 14 stating it found concerns and potential violations of county and state code with Otero County’s with EchoMail to audit the 2020 General Election. The concerns included contract oversight deficiencies, potential Governmental Conduct Act violations and possible violations of the Otero County Purchasing Policy. Otero County has until March 29 to respond to the State Auditor’s Office letter. The Otero County Commission has supported the audit since the first discussions of it in 2021. “I speak for myself, but I think the other two commissioners feel the same way that we strongly support this audit,” Otero County Commission Chairwoman Vickie Marquardt said. The Alamogordo Daily News reached out to Otero County for comment but had not heard back as of 3 p.m. on March 14. “Through our fact-finding procedures, review of documents received from the County, and review of public meetings regarding the procurement, the OSA has identified concerns and potential violations we want to bring to your attention, as the OSA seeks to deter waste and abuse in government,” the OSA letter states.

Full Article: New Mexico finds problems with Otero County’s election audit contract

New Mexico: Otero County Commission Approves 50K For Election Audit Contract | Tierna Unruh-Enos/The Paper.

At the Jan. 13 Otero County Commission meeting, all three commissioners–Gerald Matherly, Vickie Marquardt and Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin–voted unanimously to approve an election audit contract of $49,750 with EchoMail Inc. Former New Mexico State University law professor David Clements will lead the audit. Clements was fired from the university in 2021 for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine and for ignoring the mask mandate instituted by the New Mexico Department of Health. The EchoMail software has been used in other election audits such as the ones in Maricopa County, AZ, led by the Cyber Ninjas. Election officials in Maricopa disputed nearly every claim found in the audit. During Clement’s presentation to the commissioners Griffin said, “I don’t think there’s a more appropriate way to spend taxpayer dollars than to ensure our elections aren’t compromised.” According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, while on leave from NMSU pending his termination, Clements traveled to several states alleging election fraud over the 2020 presidential contest as well as opposing public health mandates related to COVID-19. An online fundraiser set up by a political ally had raised more than $280,000 in donations for Clements. He has also has been a guest on numerous podcasts and cable news programs including “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News.

Full Article: Otero County Commission Approves 50K For Election Audit Contract – The Paper.

New Mexico: Republicans try to cast doubt on presidential results after Biden won by 11 points | Matthew Reichbach/NM Political Report

Less than a week before New Mexico certifies its election results, President Donald Trump’s political team said there are allegations of voter fraud in the state, even as the state’s post-election process to verify and audit results moved forward. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani made the allegations as part of a rambling press conference on Thursday that contradicted some arguments the Trump campaign has made in courts. The Trump campaign has consistently lost their cases as they attempt to overturn election results in states where the Republican lost, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “And the state that we’re looking at that would surprise you, we’re seeing very, very significant amount of fraud allegations in the state of New Mexico,” Giuliani claimed. A spokesman for the Secretary of State said elections in New Mexico were secure. He also said there have been, to his knowledge, there have been no lawsuits filed yet. “We have safe and secure elections here in New Mexico because of our use of best practices like paper ballots, regular voter roll maintenance, and post-election audits,” the spokesman, Alex Curtas, said in a statement.

Full Article: Republicans try to cast doubt on NM presidential results after Biden won by 11 points | The NM Political Report

New Mexico Supreme Court denies GOP election petition | Dan Boyd/Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected a Republican-backed election lawsuit, even as the GOP moved forward with a second court challenge over absentee ballot protocols. With state election officials pushing early voting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, voting via absentee ballot has already hit unprecedented levels across New Mexico. A total of 265,739 absentee ballots had been cast statewide as of Tuesday morning – or about 44.8% of the roughly 593,000 votes cast in all. That deluge of absentee ballots has prompted lawsuits even before vote counting begins, especially since the state’s laws regarding absentee voting procedures were updated in 2019 and earlier this year. The petition denied Tuesday by three Supreme Court justices – the court’s two remaining justices had recused themselves – sought to guarantee that poll watchers could observe the initial verification of absentee ballots.

Full Article: NM Supreme Court denies GOP election petition » Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico: Concerns about voter intimidation loom in election run-up | Bella Davis/Daily Lobo

Albuquerque resident Eleanor Chavez was driving by the 98th and Central early voting site on Saturday, Oct. 17 when she passed a caravan of flag-waving Trump supporters who drove through the parking lot. Hours later, she went back and saw a man with a Trump flag on the back of his truck yelling at voters before the police arrived. “Who does that? I’ve been voting for a hundred million years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Chavez said. Chavez said she was planning to vote that day but decided to wait because of the activity she observed, which she called “threatening.”According to an Albuquerque Police Department report, officers responded to a call about the same man Chavez observed. The presiding judge on site told an officer that she was afraid he was going to “shoot up” voters.Officers issued a criminal trespass notice against the man, who was identified in the police report as Isidro Casarez. The notice was issued not because Casarez intimidated voters, but because he was “acting disorderly” in the parking lot of a business. He had been parked in front of a T-Mobile store in the same shopping center as the polling site and refused to leave when an employee asked him to.The Bernalillo County district attorney’s office is investigating the Trump caravan incident, spokesperson Brandale Mills-Cox said.New Mexico election officials and local nonprofit organizations are taking a number of steps — like training hundreds of poll watchers and setting up a legal hotline — to prepare for the potential of more incidents like that of Oct. 17.

New Mexico: New election law opens door to curbside, mail-in voting | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico voters this fall might cast their ballots at drive-thru sites, fill them out during expanded early-voting hours or even receive them by mail. The extra flexibility is part of complex election legislation signed into law Friday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Under the legislation, any new procedures will have to be designed to protect public health amid the coronavirus pandemic. Procedures must be consistent with federal guidelines or be “otherwise evidence-based.” The rules could vary by county, depending on the severity of the outbreak in different parts of New Mexico. The legislation, Senate Bill 4, won Senate approval 40-2 last week and passed the House 44-26. Lujan Grisham’s office said the new law will protect voting rights and create flexibility that might be needed in a public health emergency. “There is no solution excluded nor is there a secret plan to go to a particular solution,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill. The goal, he said, is to create options for health and election officials because of uncertainty over whether the virus will surge or abate as the Nov. 3 general election approaches. The new law doesn’t mention potential emergency options or rule any out.

New Mexico: Bill could allow for all-mail election in certain areas | Michael Gerstein/Santa Fe New Mexican

Emergency powers included in legislation Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign into law could allow for an all-mail general election in certain areas of the state with public health concerns from the pandemic, according to lawmakers and the Governor’s Office. Senate Bill 4, which the Legislature sent to Lujan Grisham’s desk Saturday night, was not intended to create a statewide, all-mail election. And a provision that would have allowed county clerks to send absentee ballots to all registered voters — not just those who made a formal request for one — was stripped from the bill in a Senate committee. But broad emergency powers in the bill provide a path for a range of measures, on a county-by-county basis, to protect public health. That could include shutting down polling locations in November, allowing drive-thru voting or requiring all-mail voting without an absentee ballot, according to the bill’s sponsors. “There is no plan [to do that] because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors. “Nothing is off the table,” Ivey-Soto added.

New Mexico: Rio Arriba County hit in ransomware cyberattack | Amanda Martinez/Santa Fe New Mexican

Rio Arriba County government was the victim of a ransomware cyberattack, with a significant but still unknown number of its network servers, electronic files and databases having been encrypted, according to a Wednesday news release. “While the exact extent of this cyberattack has not yet been determined, what is known is that nearly every county server that has files or databases on it has been affected in some way, including the County’s backup servers,” the news release states. Raymond Ortiz, the county’s information technology consultant, confirmed the cyberattack Wednesday but said he could not provide further comment. County Manager Tomas Campós did not immediately return a message. The affected servers, files and databases cannot be accessed, reviewed or edited. Officials discovered agencies had been victims of the cyberattack Tuesday and reported the intrusion to the county’s insurance company and federal law enforcement authorities, according to the news release.

New Mexico: High court halts automatic mail-in election in victory for GOP | Michael Gerstein/Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition to conduct the June 2 primary election solely by mail, quickly drawing praise from Republicans and condemnation from Democrats who say the ruling will put poll workers and voters at risk. Chief Justice Judith Nakamura acknowledged the state is in the midst of a public health crisis and that voting by mail is the safest option. But justices nonetheless ruled unanimously that state law does not allow ballots to be sent automatically to voters eligible to participate in the primary. Justices in effect acknowledged that allowing an election by mail would require lawmakers to change state law — something parties who petitioned the court to rule on the matter had argued is impossible during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic because it would put lawmakers at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 in a hypothetical special session.

New Mexico: High court sets April 14 hearing on mail election | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

The state Supreme Court wants to hear arguments on the legality of New Mexico legislators convening electronically – rather than in person – for a special session amid the coronavirus outbreak. The justices requested the information as they consider an emergency petition filed by 27 county clerks who want to shift the June 2 primary to an election by mail. The Supreme Court set an April 14 hearing on the issue. The court orders come after the state Republican Party and 29 legislators asked the justices Tuesday to reject the emergency petition, describing it as an improper push by state election officials to bypass the Legislature and craft a new election scheme, even with reasonable alternatives available to safeguard public health. The Republicans said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham could call a special session if changing the election code is necessary to protect public health. And without a session, the GOP argued, New Mexico could simply encourage voters to cast absentee ballots – a well-trusted system, they said, that provides better safeguards against fraudulent voting.

New Mexico: GOP files lawsuit to block mail-in primary election | Tony Raap/Santa Fe New Mexican

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the New Mexico Supreme Court that aims to block an effort by more than two dozen county clerks to conduct the June primary election by mail. The lawsuit contends a mail-in primary election offers no ballot security and could lead to voter fraud. “You cannot monitor votes in such a mail-in ballot election,” New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “Many states that use this process can scan ballots for security, but New Mexico doesn’t have that technology.” The lawsuit comes a day after 27 New Mexico county clerks petitioned the state Supreme Court for an order to conduct the June 2 primary by mail to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further. The clerks said it would be impossible to carry out a normal election during the pandemic and that to do so would “violate their oath of office in order to protect the health and safety of their community.”

New Mexico: Clerks seek emergency court action for all-mail voting in primary | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

More than two dozen of New Mexico’s county clerks asked the state Supreme Court on Monday for an emergency order that would allow them to conduct the June 2 primary by mail. The clerks said they otherwise face an impossible choice – putting voters’ and election workers’ lives at risk or violating their oath of office – amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The state of New Mexico faces a public health emergency unprecedented in modern times,” the clerks said in an their petition. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s chief election officer, supports the petition, describing the move to mail-in ballots – with some exceptions for in-person voting – as a sensible way to protect public health and the right to vote. The unusual petition seeks emergency court intervention. The clerks acknowledge that an immediate special session – allowing the governor and legislators to change election laws – is a potential solution. But it isn’t practical to convene a session amid a virus outbreak that could kill hundreds of New Mexicans in the next few months, the clerks said, citing a projection by University of Washington researchers. The clerks also noted that most of New Mexico’s 112 legislators are 60 or older, putting them most at risk of the disease.

New Mexico: State considers holding mail elections | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

With just 45 days until voting starts, New Mexico is exploring how quickly it could move entirely to a vote-by-mail system for this year’s primary and general elections amid the coronavirus outbreak. Legislative approval in a special session would almost certainly be required to abandon early and Election Day voting sites, election officials said, a potential barrier to launching a mail-in system before the June 2 primary. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already informed legislative leaders that she expects to call a special session this year to consider budget adjustments, economic relief and other emergency measures. But it isn’t clear yet when it would start. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver – who oversees elections run by county clerks throughout New Mexico – said she expects, at the least, to encourage people to cast absentee ballots by mail for the primary. To that end, her office established an online portal Friday allowing voters to request absentee ballots about a month earlier than usual. Unless there’s a change in the law, in-person and absentee voting for the June primary will begin May 5, or four weeks before Election Day.

New Mexico: Election Day voter registration clears first committee | The NM Political Report

A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”

New Mexico: Democrats push several election proposals | Albuquerque Journal

A package of election proposals in the state House would allow felons to keep their voting rights while in prison and aim to make voter registration for the general public more convenient, or even automatic. And one bill has the potential to change how New Mexico participates in presidential elections. The proposals, all sponsored by Democrats, are starting to move through the House. The presidential proposal cleared its first committee Wednesday on a party-line vote, with Democrats in the majority. It would sign New Mexico on to a compact pledging the state’s electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. The goal would be to diminish the influence of the winner-take-all system that dominates the Electoral College, in which candidates tend to focus on a dozen or so battleground states that could be won by either party.

New Mexico: Dispute flares as vote results are certified | Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s midterm election results were certified Tuesday, but not before a dispute over the legality of online absentee ballots applications roiled a meeting of the State Canvassing Board and prompted questions from Gov. Susana Martinez about whether Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had overstepped her legal authority. While the secretary of state, a Democrat, staunchly defended the program’s legal moorings and the integrity of this year’s general election results, Martinez, a Republican, and others suggested the online absentee ballot requests could open the door to voter fraud. “This is a statutory process, and the statute wasn’t followed,” Pat Rogers, an Albuquerque lawyer, said during Tuesday’s meeting at the state Capitol.

New Mexico: High court blocks plan to restore straight-party voting | Santa Fe New Mexican

There will be no straight-party voting option this year in New Mexico. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled in favor of a petition by the state Republican and Libertarian parties and others arguing that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver does not have the power to put straight-party voting back on ballots without legislative approval. The court didn’t buy Toulouse Oliver’s argument that the secretary of state’s power to decide the form of the ballot includes resurrecting the straight-ticket option. “Did the Legislature intend to delegate its decision-making authority over straight-party voting to the secretary of state?” Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said when announcing the high court’s decision. “The answer to this question is no.”

New Mexico: New Mexico secretary of state firm on straight-party voting | Santa Fe New Mexican

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is sticking to her guns. In a 23-page response to a lawsuit filed by the state Republican and Libertarian parties and others, lawyers representing the Democrat in charge of New Mexico elections rejected their claim that the state Legislature did away with straight-party voting in 2001 and asserted that Toulouse Oliver has the power to give voters that option. The response, filed Friday in the state Supreme Court, argues that “the New Mexico Legislature has never prohibited the inclusion of a straight-party voting option on the ballot. The Legislature, instead, left this option, like other options involved in formatting the ballot, to be determined by the secretary of state.”

New Mexico: An Unlikely Union Seeks to Stop Straight-Party Voting in New Mexico | Governing

There’s at least one thing Republicans, Libertarians, independents and even some Democrats seem to agree on. They do not want voters to cast straight-party ballots in the November election. And they are asking the state Supreme Court to stop Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver from putting an option for straight-party voting back on the ballot after a Republican predecessor scrapped it about six years ago. In an emergency petition filed late Thursday, an unlikely assortment of political leaders and advocates argued straight-party voting is no longer allowed under New Mexico law. Moreover, they contend it violates the idea of equal protection under the Constitution for some political parties and independent candidates.

New Mexico: Doña Ana County to hold special meeting on straight-party voting | Las Cruces Sun News

oña Ana County Commission Chairman Ben Rawson has called for a special meeting Tuesday to consider a resolution requesting that the county clerk not include a straight-party ticket option on the ballots for the 2018 election. Rawson, a Republican, said that officials in Lea, Curry, Roosevelt, Chaves, Eddy and San Juan counties have also called special meetings for Tuesday to take up the issue, and others are expected to as well. Tuesday is the deadline for county clerks to turn ballots in to the Secretary of State’s Office, he said. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, announced that she was bringing back the option of straight-party voting, which had been discontinued in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican. It allows voters to select all candidates from one party by filling in a single bubble on the ballot.

New Mexico: Lawsuit likely over straight-ticket voting | Associated Press

New Mexico will become just one of several states to still allow the option to vote a straight-party ticket in the upcoming general election under an effort launched Wednesday by the state’s top elections chief. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she’s formatting the ballots to allow voting in which a slate of major party candidates can be chosen all at one time. The move drew immediate criticism from the Republican Party of New Mexico and others who described it as partisan maneuvering. Some critics even questioned the legality of Toulouse Oliver’s decision and threatened legal action, pointing to a vote by the Legislature in 2001 to abolish straight-ticket voting. Former Gov. Gary Johnson signed that legislation nearly two decades ago and is now running as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate.

New Mexico: Voters to have straight-ticket option this fall | Associated Press

New Mexico will become just one of several states to still allow the option to vote a straight-party ticket in the upcoming general election under an effort launched Wednesday by the state’s top elections chief. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she’s formatting the ballots to allow voting in which a slate of major party candidates can be chosen all at one time. The move drew immediate criticism from the Republican Party of New Mexico and others who described it as partisan maneuvering. Some critics even questioned the legality of Toulouse Oliver’s decision and threatened legal action, pointing to a vote by the Legislature in 2001 to abolish straight-ticket voting.

New Mexico: Shredded ballots cause election kerfuffle in Rio Arriba County | Santa Fe New Mexican

Rio Arriba County is sort of a miniature Chicago when it comes to elections. The year began with the indictments of two of its residents for voter fraud. One of them is the wife of an Española city councilor. Then, in last month’s primary election, 55 paper ballots that had been cast by Democratic voters were slashed to indecipherable ribbons by poll workers. This was no small blunder. The case of the butchered ballots cast doubt on the outcome of a close race for a seat on the Rio Arriba County Board of Commissioners.

New Mexico: Libertarians pay for recount in governor primary | Albuquerque Journal

The Libertarian candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are willing to pay $8,500 to cover the cost of a recount aimed at ensuring their names appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The two candidates ran a write-in campaign to win the Libertarian nomination. Under state law, they had to receive at least 230 votes in the primary election to advance to the general election, but they fell about 50 votes short. Now, the Libertarians are asking the State Canvassing Board to authorize a hand tally in at least eight counties and they’ve provided an $8,500 check to cover the cost. They will get the money back if the recount shows that they had enough votes to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

New Mexico: Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver Adopts Four Administrative Rules | KRWG

Yesterday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver adopted the final version of four new administrative rules, which take effect in time for the Primary Election in June 2018. The new rules enhance numerous aspects of the state’s absentee voting process, outline procedures for candidates to transfer funds from one state campaign finance account to another, establish the order in which certain races will appear on the ballot, and bring uniformity to procedures for provisional voting statewide. “These rules bring clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I will continue looking for ways to streamline New Mexico’s election processes and increase access to the ballot box.”

New Mexico: Straight party voting may return to New Mexico | Albuquerque Journal

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver hopes to bring back straight party voting – possibly as soon as November – which would allow voters to check a single box to vote for a major party’s entire slate of candidates. However, critics of straight party voting say the practice gives an unfair advantage to major party candidates – especially Democrats – over those who are independent or affiliated with minor parties. And state Republican Party officials have indicated that they might pursue a court challenge if straight party voting is enacted. A Secretary of State’s Office spokesman said Toulouse Oliver intends to hold public hearings before implementing straight party voting, and it’s unclear whether that will happen in time for the Nov. 6 general election. But he insisted that state law gives the secretary of state the authority to unilaterally reimpose the voting option.

New Mexico: Secretary of State promises straight-ticket vote option | Santa Fe New Mexican

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she still wants to restore straight-ticket voting in which a slate of major-party candidates can be chosen all at one time. Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday said she hopes to allow straight-ticket voting in fall elections. The change would fulfill a campaign pledge. Also known as straight-party voting, the option was removed in 2012 elections by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

New Mexico: Senate bill would drop lieutenant governor primaries | Santa Fe New Mexican

Under New Mexico law, the state’s governor and lieutenant governor are forced to coexist in a sort of arranged marriage. Each runs in a separate primary election. This means major-party candidates for governor have no direct say-so about who will become their running mate in the general election. More importantly, says state Sen. Mark Moores, the system creates the very real possibility that the governor and lieutenant governor might not get along or agree on policy. So Moores, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, have introduced a bill to change the way lieutenant governor candidates are selected. Their proposal, Senate Bill 178, would eliminate primary elections for lieutenant governor.

New Mexico: Lawmaker pushes automatic voter registration | NM Politics

By the time the 2016 presidential election rolled around, New Mexico had one of the lowest rates of voting-age citizens registered to vote. Only two-thirds of the state’s eligible voters had signed up to cast a ballot, compared to at least 80 percent in Maine and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps unsurprisingly, New Mexico also had one of the lowest rates of election turnout among its voting-age population. One state lawmaker wants to make it easier for people to vote through an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution that would require the state to ensure every citizen who is eligible to vote is at least registered.

New Mexico: Supreme Court clears way for ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe | Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for ranked-choice voting in Santa Fe’s March 6 municipal election. The high court rejected city government’s petition seeking to overturn state District Judge David Thomson’s December ruling that Santa Fe had to implement ranked-choice voting, or RCV, in 2018. The Supreme Court’s order simply denied the city’s petition without explanation or comment. City spokesman Matt Ross said the decision was a disappointment, partly because no explanation was provided.