New Mexico officials warn of potential disruptions to county-level election certifications

By: - November 16, 2022 4:00 am

The N.M. secretary of state and attorney general say a legal team is prepared to step in if county commissions undermine legal certification of 2022 election. (Getty Images)

Voters statewide cast ballots last week to decide a number of races and local issues, and now that those votes have been counted, it’s up to county canvassing boards and commissions to complete the legal process of certifying election results.

Explainer: Certifying results after New Mexicans vote

The certification process is typically quick and straightforward, but in recent elections, unfounded fears, conspiracy theories and outright lies have caused delays. So far, no county has indicated plans to delay certification that are due in a few days, but the Secretary of State’s Office and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General issued a joint statement Tuesday notifying county commissions that a legal team is ready to “take action against any attempts to interfere with legal certification.”

Under state law, each of the state’s 33 counties must have a canvassing board conduct a formal inspection of the election results. These boards then review vote totals and either certify the totals or order a recount.

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 certification no later than 10 days after an election.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas, through the joint statement, said they’re aware of election conspiracy theorists who might attempt to “enlist county commissions” to thwart legal certification of the 2022 general election results.

The two people behind the election denial movement in New Mexico

“These tactics are not new and were seen during the 2022 primary election when Otero County (influenced by these same election conspiracy theorists) attempted to neglect their legal duties and not certify the results of that election,” the statement said.

The Otero reference relates to an incident earlier this year when the County Commission initially refused to certify the results of the state’s June 7 primary election over distrust of vote-counting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, a Denver-based company that has been the target of many of former President Donald Trump’s false claims about fraudulent 2020 election results.

The board ultimately voted 2-1 to certify the results, but only after the state Supreme Court and the AG’s office stepped in.

The Otero County Commission — now composed of Republican Vickie Marquardt, Republican Gerald Matherly and Democrat Stephanie DuBois — unanimously voted Tuesday to certify the canvass of the 2022 general election.

Though no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud or manipulation of tallying machines has been found, Commissioner Marquardt said she still believes fraud is taking place nationwide.

“I think there is a fight for the elections in this country. I think it’s ongoing,” she said. “I think we all need to stay involved in it, but not certifying these elections — the only thing that’s going to do is probably get Gerald (Matherly) and I removed from office.”


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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.