• Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

GOP commission refuses to certify New Mexico primary results due to distrust of voting machines

ByChad J. Johnson

Jun 15, 2022

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Votes in a New Mexico community may not count after a Republican-led commission declined to endorse primary election results due to mistrust of Dominion vote counting machines.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to order the three-member commission from Otero County to certify the results of the June 7 primary election to ensure that the voters are not disenfranchised and that political candidates have access to the November general election ballot.

On Monday, the commission, in its role as the county canvassing board, voted unanimously against certifying the primary results without raising specific concerns about the discrepancies, despite objection from the county clerk.

“I have huge concerns with these voting machines,” Otero County Commissioner Vickie Marquardt said Monday. “When I certify that things I don’t know are right, I feel like I’m being dishonest because in my heart I don’t know if it’s right.”

Dominion’s systems have been unjustifiably attacked since the 2020 election by people who have adopted the false belief that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. The company filed libel suits in response to incorrect and outrageous allegations made by top Trump allies.

READ MORE: 2022 New Mexico Primary Election Results

New Mexico’s Dominion machines were repeatedly criticized by David and Erin Clements of Las Cruces in their review of the 2020 Otero County election and voter registration rolls requested by the commission. The Clements are roving advocates for the “legal” reviews of the 2020 election and offer their services as election experts and auditors to local governments. Election officials, including County Clerk Robyn Holmes, say the Clements are not certified auditors or experts in election protocols.

The couple highlighted issues in sporadic, hour-long presentations to the commission this year. Local election officials dispute many of the findings as erroneous or unsubstantiated.

Members of the Otero County commission include Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin, who attributes unsubstantiated claims that Trump won the 2020 election. Griffin was convicted of unlawfully trespassing on the restricted grounds of the United States Capitol – but not in the building – amid the riots on January 6, 2021, and is expected to be sentenced later this month. He acknowledged that the stalemate in this primary could delay the outcome of local election races.

County canvassing commissions have until June 17 to certify election results, before state certification and preparation of ballots for the general election.

Under state law, county canvassing commissions can call on a ward council to resolve specific discrepancies, but no discrepancies were identified Monday by the Otero commission.

“The post-election solicitation process is a key part of how we maintain our high levels of election integrity in New Mexico and the Otero County Commission displays this process by appeasing unfounded conspiracy theories and quashing potentially the votes of every voter in Otero County who participated in the primary,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. She accused the commission of willful violations of the state election code.

New Mexico uses paper ballots that can be rechecked later in all elections, and also relies on tabulation machines to tally votes quickly while minimizing human error. Election results are also audited through random sampling to verify levels of vote count accuracy.

The Otero County Commission voted last week to hand-recount statewide primary election ballots, remove state-mandated ballot boxes that facilitate mail-in voting and stop using Dominion vote tabulation machines in general elections.

On Monday, Holmes said those county commission instructions conflict with federal and state election laws, and that she would only recount the election by hand if ordered by the court.

READ MORE: Democracy experts alarmed by GOP takeover of electoral apparatus

“Elections law does not allow me to count these ballots or even form a council to do so. I just can’t,” said Holmes, a Republican. “And I will follow the law.”

Holmes noted that Dominion state-owned vote tabulation machines are tested by Otero County officials in public view and the machines are also independently certified in advance. Griffin said he and his fellow commissioners did not see the process as trustworthy.

“This is a source over which we have no control or influence,” he said.

Mario Jimenez of the progressive watchdog group Common Cause New Mexico said the public can see tests of vote-counting machines ahead of the election in every county, and certification notices are posted on every machine where voters can see them. .

“They have no basis — other than ‘we just don’t trust the machine’ — for not certifying the election,” Jimenez said of the Otero County commissioners.

Although Trump won nearly 62% of the vote in Otero County in 2020, county commissioners said they were not satisfied with the results of the state’s audit of the vote count or the assurances from their Republican clerk that this year’s election would be accurate.

County commissioners could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Marquardt, the commissioner, laughed Monday at the suggestion that a court could intervene in the election dispute.

“So what? Are they going to send us to the pokey? she says.