Explainer: Certifying results after New Mexicans vote

By: - November 8, 2022 4:00 am

Victoria Ferrer, County judge, working with the Miami-Dade County Canvassing Board uses a magnifying glass to inspect a Vote-by-Mail ballot for a valid signature at the county’s Elections Department on Nov. 3, 2020 in Doral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

This summer, three New Mexico counties — Sandoval, Otero and Torrance — thrust the issue of certifying election results into the spotlight by delaying certification of the state’s primary election results. In Otero County, the state Supreme Court even had to intervene to compel the commission there to vote on the matter.

NM Supreme Court steps in after Otero County refuses to certify primary results

Though the process of certifying the vote once took place largely behind the scenes and without much recognition, in the era of election denial, it’s become a contentious political issue. And while similar delays are possible after the general election this year, the process is straightforward and governed by state law, and requirements are spelled out in New Mexico statute.

Here’s how it works:

Each county in the state has a canvassing board — a group of people that conducts a formal inspection of the results of an election by reviewing vote totals. These boards can either certify the totals or order a recount if necessary.

These canvassing boards are required by state law to meet following an election to prepare a report of the canvass of the returns. In counties with 150,000 or more voters, the board has up to 13 days after the election to declare the results. In smaller counties, canvassing boards are required to declare no later than 10 days after an election.

Once members approve the report internally, the board is required to issue a certificate for the results of the election. A copy of that certification must be sent to the Secretary of State, the county clerk, to each local governing body with a candidate or ballot question receiving votes from any precinct, and to the state records center.

In the case of any candidates or ballot questions that are voted on by more than one county, a copy of the certification must also be sent to the state canvassing board.

The process is fully completed 31 days after the election when the Secretary of State issues election certificates to the winning candidates.


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Ryan Lowery
Ryan Lowery

Ryan Lowery is an award-winning independent journalist based in Albuquerque. He covers politics and criminal justice and has reported on New Mexico for the Las Vegas Optic, Santa Fe Reporter, Los Angeles Times and others. Lowery was awarded the 2020 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, and the 2021 Sunshine Award from the New Mexico Press Association for his reporting that highlighted lack of transparency from multiple government agencies.