New Mexico’s secretary of state on Tuesday asked the state’s Supreme Court to order the Republican-led commission in rural Otero County to certify primary election results after it refused to do so by distrust of Dominion vote-counting machines.
The request from Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, came a day after the three-member Otero County Commission, in its role as the county canvassing commission, voted unanimously against certifying the results of the June 7 primary without raising specific concerns about the discrepancies.
Members of the commission include Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin, who endorses unsubstantiated claims that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Griffin was found guilty of unlawfully trespassing on the restricted grounds of the United States Capitol — but not in the building — amid riots on January 6, 2021, and his sentencing is scheduled for later this month.
He acknowledged that the stalemate in this primary could delay the outcome of local election races.
“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.”
The commission’s vote is the latest example of how conspiracy theories and misinformation affect the integrity of local elections across the United States. Trump continued to describe the 2020 election as “rigged” or “stolen”, despite a coalition of senior government and industry officials calling it “the safest in American history”.
Dominion’s systems have also been unjustifiably attacked since the 2020 election by people who have adopted the false belief that the election was stolen from Trump. The company filed libel suits in response.
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 have highlighted issues in sporadic, hour-long presentations to the commission this year. Local election officials dispute many of the findings as erroneous or unsubstantiated.
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 is flouting 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 absentee voting, and cease 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.
“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 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 reason — other than ‘we just don’t trust the machine’ — not to certify 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.