Two NM House races go to automatic recounts

Initial results show tight margins of victory for legislative seats

By: - November 14, 2022 4:30 am

Election office employees put away sample ballots during the conclusion of a ballot counting demonstration at the Multnomah County Elections Office in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, October 25, 2022. (Photo by Jordan Gale / Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Update at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022:

After certifying the official results of the 2022 General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 29, the New Mexico State Canvassing Board ordered automatic recounts in House District 32 and House District 68. The Board will meet again to certify the results of those recounted races at 3 p.m. on Dec. 13.

Preliminary results in two races for seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives were so close that by law they must be recounted.

If the recounts don’t produce new results, the relative strength of the two major parties in the House remained the same after the midterm elections on Nov. 8, with Democrats and Republicans each losing two seats to the other.

But in both House District 68 on Albuquerque’s Westside and District 32 in the southwest corner of the state, the margin of victory was less than 1%.

In legislative races, an automatic recount is required when the canvass of returns shows that the margin of victory is less than 1% of the total votes cast, according to state law.

The canvass process pretty much begins right after the election happens, said Alex Curtas, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office.

It’s a layered process with multiple groups within the process to maintain accountability and credibility of the results.

The county governments canvass the returns from the voting precincts in their counties, and produce a canvass report. Once they’ve done that, they submit that to the county board of canvas, a role of the county commission.

The canvass boards can start meeting no sooner than six days and no later than 10 days after the conclusion of the election, Curtas said.

The larger counties, Bernalillo and Doña Ana, get more time to produce a canvass report, Curtas said, about 13 days.

The county canvass boards don’t do any certification, Curtas said.

“They are approving the report of the canvas, then all of those reports come to us at the Secretary of State,” Curta said.

The Secretary of State’s Office does a canvass of those canvasses, Curtas said, and then the New Mexico Canvass Board will meet on Nov. 29, he said.

That day the state canvass board will certify the results, making the results official. 

Then, if there is a need, the state canvass board will order automatic recounts, or any recounts, that need to happen.

“We have to have official results before we can even do a recount, for example, because before we have official results, we don’t know what the actual margin of victory was,” Curtas said.

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Immediately after the state canvass board issues those notices of automatic recount, state law requires the county-level canvass boards to order their county clerks to bring together a recount precinct board.

Those recount boards would then recount and re-tally the ballots, and then produce a recount certificate, which would then go to a canvassing board. That canvassing board would then recanvass the results and must follow the recount instead of the original results, which then could result in changing the outcome of the election.

Albuquerque’s Westside

There were 11,254 votes total in District 68 on the Westside of Albuquerque, where the margin between the two candidates was just over one quarter of one percentage point.

Democrat Charlotte Little is a small business owner and former tribal administrator from San Felipe Pueblo. She received 5,642 votes, or 50.13% of the vote.

Her campaign website states “we need leaders in Santa Fe who will stand firm for guaranteed, affordable health care for all New Mexicans.”

Republican Robert Moss is a tax attorney and health care startup investor. He got 5,612 votes, or 49.86% of the vote.

His number one issue is education, according to his campaign website. He is calling to “break apart the Albuquerque Public School district,” and that “local school districts, elected by the community, should be dictating most of their districts’ policies.”

Southwestern New Mexico

There were 7,529 votes total in District 32, which includes parts of Luna, Hidalgo and Doña Ana counties. On election night, the margin of victory between the two candidates was about half of one percentage point.

Republican Jenifer Jones is a registered nurse from Deming. She secured 3,786 votes, or 50.28% of the vote.

During legislative sessions, Jones works in the office of Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte), according to her campaign website.

The website touts her lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association, and shows a photo of her with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. It states that if elected, she would “fight to protect Second Amendment rights in District 32 and all of New Mexico.”

Her grandfather was a Luna County commissioner, and her mother was Luna County Clerk, according to her campaign website.

Democrat Candie Sweetser is a former TV broadcaster from Deming. She picked up 3,743 votes, or 49.71% of the vote.

Her campaign website touts an endorsement from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund. It states Sweetser has “a proven record of fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights.”

CORRECTION 

This story was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to correctly reflect the number of seats Democrats and Republicans appeared to have traded before recounts.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.

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