‘Canary in the coalmine’: New Mexico clash hints at looming election crisis | New Mexico

Hello and Happy Thursday,

There is an incredibly important impasse currently unfolding in New Mexico that is setting off strong alarm bells about the possibility of canceling a future US election.

The clash is taking place in Otero County, which sits along the New Mexico-Texas border and is home to about 70,000 people. Donald Trump won the county landslide with nearly 62% of the vote in 2020. On Monday, the three-member county commission declined to certify the results of the June 7 state primary.

At their meeting, the commissioners, all Republicans, did not cite specific reasons for taking the extraordinary decision not to certify the contest. Two of the commissioners referred to widespread concerns about voting machines from Dominion, a company that has been the target of numerous conspiracy theories about the election. The third commissioner reported ineligible voters casting ballots, but didn’t cite a specific vote count he was concerned about (you can watch the entire meeting here.)

For months baseless allegations of fraud have swirled around Otero County, which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2020. The county commissioned a review of the 2020 election by inexperienced people who ended up making inaccurate statements about county voting machines. The county commission has since voted to get rid of all Dominion voting machines and count all ballots by hand, which experts say is less reliable than automatic counting. New Mexico law already requires a post-election audit, which the state completed in 2020.

“I don’t trust Dominion, period,” Vickie Marquardt, one of the county commissioners, said at Monday’s meeting.

“I don’t have any specific examples that I can cite other than the recent audit and the canvassing and the uncertainty of what that produced,” said Couy Griffin, another commissioner. Griffin is the founder of Cowboys for Trump, who was convicted of a misdemeanor for entering the US Capitol complex on January 6 (his sentencing is scheduled for Friday).

Marquardt, Griffin and Gerald Matherly, the county’s third commissioner, did not respond to interview requests.

It’s a “canary in the coal mine” for what could happen in November and 2024, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told me. She said she had never seen anything like it before.

“What we’re seeing in Otero County is a complete breakdown of the rule of law and the democratic process,” said Oliver, a Democrat. “This is not just a small county in a state of 2 million people. It’s about what happens as a result of that. What model are they setting for other similar entities in the state and country.

Local officials across the country, citing dubious allegations of fraud or a lack of confidence in the results, could simply refuse to take the step of certifying the elections. People who deny the 2020 election results are making a concerted effort to fill these little-known positions, from poll workers to local canvassing commissions to secretaries of state.

Oliver’s office filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force county commissioners to certify the election. While state law allows commissioners to seek clarification of ambiguities or errors, they clearly do not have the discretion to decline to certify an election. The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the county to certify the results by June 17..

Mario Jimenez, a former state election official who now works as a campaign manager for the New Mexico chapter of Common Cause, a watchdog group, noted that New Mexico law makes it a criminal offense to knowingly violating election laws.

“They have been briefed by their county attorney on the things they can and cannot do…although they have been briefed by their own legal expert and this very experienced county clerk, they continue to violate willfully the law and not serve their community or their constituents.”

Oliver’s involvement underscores the kind of power that secretaries of state have to enforce election laws, including in the ballot counting process. Republican candidates for secretary of state in many states have openly questioned the results of the 2020 election, and if they win this fall, they could play a key role in preventing certification of the results. Audrey Trujillo, a Republican running against Oliver in New Mexico this year, called the 2020 election a “coup” and urged commissioners across the state not to certify county results in the first place. absence of a manual recount and a “medico-legal audit”.

At Monday’s meeting, commission counsel advised commissioners that they could be compelled by court order to certify the election if they refused. The stewards were unfazed. “So what? Are they going to send us to the pokey? Marquart said.

See also…

  • Jim Marchant, a QAnon-linked candidate who has spread baseless claims about the election, won the GOP nomination to be Nevada’s top election official.

  • More than 100 candidates who embraced lies about the election have won the Republican primaries so far, according to a Washington Post tally.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has set October 4 as the date it will hear a hugely consequential redistricting case out of Alabama.

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