Saturday, September 30, 2023

Two NM Counties Defy Voter Regulations, SOS Files Lawsuit


The deadline for New Mexico counties to certify the results of the 2022 Primary Election was Monday, June 13. At least two New Mexico counties have refused to do so.

According to Alex Curtas, communications director for the Secretary of State's office, a vote taken by the Otero County Commission last week to remove ballot boxes and no longer use Dominion voting machines has no legal authority. Commissioners voted to only utilize hand-counted ballots for all elections after the 2022 Primary.

In response, late Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver filed a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico Supreme Court seeking to compel the Otero County Commission to certify the 2022 Primary Election results after the commission illegally refused to certify the results.

State law governs voting systems (including vote tabulators and secured, monitored ballot drop boxes) and the SOS office says the County Commission has no authority to change how those systems operate. County Attorney R.B. Nichols said that the county has filed in the 12th Circuit District Court to have the boxes and machines removed.

The Secretary of State's Office says the county must continue to maintain and utilize the current systems under the authority of the state and the county clerk. On June 2, the Attorney General issued an opinion that each county must provide at least two secured, camera-monitored ballot drop boxes complying with state law.

Of the 27,079 registered voters in Otero County, 7,371 ballots were cast. Mark Ronchetti won 60 percent of the Republican votes for the gubernatorial nomination, and had more than double the amount of votes that Gov. Lujan Grisham had in that county. County Commissioners expressed concern over the security of the ballots and the accuracy of the count.

Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin has been a vocal supporter of an audit of the 2020 General Election. He was convicted for his participation in the January 6 Capitol riot and faces a judge for sentencing this Friday.

In Torrance County, Ronchetti won 68 percent of the GOP vote, and also had more than double the number of votes MLG received. Torrance County had 2,559 ballots cast out of the 7,998 registered voters.

Torrance County Commissioners tabled the election certification and will reconvene on Friday.

"There is no indication that the 2022 Primary Election in New Mexico was conducted with anything less than the highest standards of election administration by dedicated county clerks and civil servants across our state. The commission is doing an extreme disservice to the voters of Otero county and candidates seeking to have their names on the General Election ballot by refusing to certify the results of the 2022 Primary Election and they’ve done this without any indication that the results were in question and over the objections of the Otero County Clerk," said Curtas. 

There is no current legal protocol for such measures outside the post-election audit. For now, the decision may lay in the court's hands.

Torrance County Commissioners tabled the election certification and will reconvene on Friday.


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