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.
Articles about voting issues in New Mexico.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.”