On Monday, April 11, the United States Congressional Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration held a hearing with the agenda entitled “Voting in America: Access to the Ballot in New Mexico”. The hearing was convened to discuss how the state has expanded access to the ballot over the past years and to examine further advances to voting in the state. The congressional hearing was held as a proposed federal update of the federal Voting Rights Act has stalled in the U.S. Senate. Hearing are being held around the country to gather evidence of voter suppression and issues facing elections officials.
Voter turnout in New Mexico hit a record high in 2020. However, since the 2020 election, anti-voter laws under the guise of election reform to protect the ballot from fraud have been enacted in many states controlled by Republicans in large part because of Der Fuerhe Trump’s false and unproven claims of election fraud and that the election was stolen from him.
New Mexico has been totally opposite from Republican controlled state legislatures. New Mexico has pushed for election practices to ensure every voter has access to the ballot box. The state employs many election policies that improve and expand access to the ballot such as automatic voter registration, online voter registration, same-day registration, early in-person voting, and no-excuse absentee voting.
In the 2020 general election, New Mexico voter turnout surged with 68% of registered voters casting ballots. The 2020 turnout percentage was the state’s highest since 2008, when 70% participated. New Mexico also set a record for raw votes cast with more than 928,000 ballots cast altogether. Of that amount, roughly 35% were cast via absentee ballot, as registered New Mexico voters are not required to provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot and casting their votes via that method.
APRIL 11 CONGRESSIONAL HEARING
The April 11 Congressional hearing was held in Santa Fe at the State Capitol with the hearing focused on steps the state has taken to expand voter access. The hearing was not attended by a single Republican member of congress. Republican members were invited to attend the hearing, including via remote participation, but all declined to do so. Democratic U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury were allowed to attend while Republican congresswoman Yvette Harrell declined.
Democrat from North Carolina U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chairman of the subcommittee on elections, said at the beginning of the hearing that New Mexico’s approach to voting laws stands in contrast to “anti-democratic” measures enacted in other states, including his home state of North Carolina. Butterfield had this to say:
“This great state has moved in the opposite direction by increasing access to the ballot box for voters”.
New Mexico Third Congressional District Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is a member of the subcommittee, cited her past legal work before running for Congress to address long lines to vote on tribal lands in New Mexico, among other issues. She said the testimony provided to the committee would be valuable for committee members. Leger Fernandez had this to say:
“Some of the issues that were raised here, like the need to provide funding so there is a steady source for our secretary of secretary of state, that’s something I’m going to go back and work on immediately.”
SECRETARY OF STATE MAGGIE TOULOUSE OLIVER TESTIFIES
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver testified during the April 11 hearing. Toulouse Oliver, who a second term, cited past threats she has received related to her job duties. She lamented the spread of misinformation about voter fraud and other election-related issues. Toulouse Oliver said this:
“We have to collectively figure out how we can make it so these lies are not tolerated and they are not allowed to propagate. …It is a fallacy to say ballot access comes at the expense of election security.”
Toulouse Oliver made it clear that New Mexico has conducted fair and accurate elections after adding same-day voter registration, ballot drop boxes and allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, provided they turn 18 before the general election.
Advocates for expanded voting rights attended the Congressional suncommitee and testified. Andrea Serrano, the executive director for OLÉ New Mexico, a well-known an Albuquerque-based nonprofit group, said misleading election-related information is often spread with a specific goal in mind of voter suppression. Serrano said:
“That disinformation is done intentionally! … It’s done specifically to keep people of color from voting.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
NEW MEXICO REPUBLICANS SUCCEED AT KILLING NEW MEXICO VOTING RIGHTS BILL
In New Mexico, questions about election irregularities and fraud continue circulate in Republican dominated counties and their candidates for office. Republican front runner candidate for Governor Mark Wrongchetti has gotten into the act of alleging voter fraud with a talking point in his platform that says:
“Ensuring secure elections where the results are trusted and accepted by our citizens is critical for a healthy democracy. … Mark Ronchetti believes we must make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Mark Wrongchetti was nowhere to be found to voice his opinion to the congressional committee nor to the New Mexico legislature when it considered the voting rights act during the 2022 legislative session.
In January, the Otero County Commission authorized a $49,750 contract for a countywide review of election records and voter registration information linked to the 2020 general election Trump won nearly 62% of the vote in Otero County in 2020 but county commissioners have said they are not satisfied with assurances of an accurate midterm election in 2022 by their county clerk or results of the state’s risk-limiting audit.
The Otero County Commission accepted a proposal from Echo-Mail, one of the contractors hired by Arizona’s Republican-controlled state senate to review election results in Maricopa County. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a warning about the audit telling area residents to be wary of what she called intrusive questions and potential intimidation by door-to-door canvassers.
In New Mexico, Republicans have taken issue with New Mexico election laws and any attempts to improve voter access to the ballot an make it easier to vote. The 2022 New Mexico legislature failed to enact a voting rights bills in large part because of Republican shenanigans. The Democratic majority floor leaders in both chambers, Santa Fe Senator Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Albuquerque Representative Javier Martínez of Albuquerque, supported the measures.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had this to say about supporting passage of the voting rights bill:
“Even as we’ve seen attempts around the country to make voting more difficult for eligible voters … here in New Mexico we continue to be a leader in how to balance the demands for voter access with the needs of maintaining our high levels of election security.”
Not at all surprising, many New Mexico Republicans followed Republican national talking points when it came to opposing the proposed voting rights bills and said the changes would lead to “fraud and confusion”. Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce went so far as to falsely say the changes would “damage the security and integrity of New Mexico elections.”
The links to quoted news source material is here:
The voting rights bill failed to be enacted by the Senate after passage in the House. Der Führer Trump Republican Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, effectively killed the measure with a filibuster on the Senate floor. In order to run out the clock on the legislative session, Sharer talked about San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, Navajo Code Talkers and the celestial alignment of the sun and moon during his lengthy filler buster on the Senate floor.
The bill would have done the following:
1. Established a permanent absentee voter list.
2. Allowed voters to sign up once to receive absentee ballots for every general election, rather than having to apply for one each time.
3. Established a Native American voting rights act.
4. Directed counties to offer two secured, monitored drop boxes for absentee ballots.
5. Made it a crime to threaten or intimidate state and county election officials.
6. Restored the voting rights of people convicted of a felony upon release from incarceration, rather than after they’ve completed probation or parole.
2020 NEW MEXICO ELECTION ADMINISTRATION, VOTER SECURITY, AND ELECTION REFORM REPORT
On January 26, the “2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report” prepared by University Of New Mexico Political Science Department was released. It is the 8th time such a post-election report has been prepared released by UNM. It was prepared with the assistance from the Secretary of State’s Office using funds from the Help America Vote Act. This research is conducted to help guide New Mexico election policy and incorporate public understanding of the process into those reforms. It is also meant to serve as a guide to voters about the health of their state democracy and backdrop of elections in New Mexico. The 2020 election report is 132 pages long and contains numerous graphs and statistics. The report found that New Mexico’s 2020 election was indeed secured and New Mexico voters has confidence in the election outcome and being free from voter fraud.
The link to read the full report is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
What Republicans have shown nationally and in other states is that what they want is absolute control of the ballot box to ensure that the only votes to be counted are those votes that will ensure Republican victory. Nationally, legislatures controlled by Republicans in red states are making major changes to their election laws to give Republicans in charge of administering election counts the power to merely invalidate election results and votes and making it as difficult as possible to vote in order to suppress voter registrations and invalidate election outcomes. Simply put, the goal of Republicans is not election security but to make sure that only those votes cast for Republicans are the votes that are counted.
No doubt Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was disappointed in the New Mexico legislature’s failure to enact the voting rights bill all because of a Republican filibuster in the State Senate. Notwithstanding, she can take great comfort with the United States Congressional Subcommittee on Elections citing the state as having made great strides with ballot access and making it easier to vote while at the same time having secured elections. She can also take great comfort in the findings of the “2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report” which found that New Mexico’s 2020 election was indeed secured. The report is a clear reflection she has done her job well and it is a testament to her success despite Republican obstructionist doing whatever they can to prevent access to the ballot.
New Mexico voters as well can take great comfort in knowing that our election laws are indeed some of the strongest in the country promoting access to the ballot. What is also clear in New Mexico is that Republicans are not at all interested in free elections and nor easy access to the ballot.
The link to a related blog article is here: