Otero County Election Deniers Debunked: New Mexico Tops National Rankings


Remember when Otero County Commission Chairwoman Vickie Marquardt allowed Otero County taxpayers to blow a whole lot of money and chase a false theory down a rabbit hole of potential election fraud in Otero County New Mexico, encouraged by election deniers John Block, Karl Melton, Couy Griffin and others? 

Do our taxpaying citizens remember the presentations and divisive rhetoric centered in large public meetings with cries that the sky is falling in New Mexico and Otero County with election fraud being perpetuated? Remember when the taxpayers were fleeced by David Clements along  with Clements’ wife Erin? Remember when they told commissioners and attendees about the status of a local 2020 general election audit contracted by Otero County, one of several launched across the United States in response to pressure from Trump adherents falsely convinced his election loss was the result of fraud?

Do our taxpaying citizens remember the fleecing by David Clements, a former district attorney and New Mexico State University law professor fired for non-compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures, who had been the most vociferous driver of the Otero audit with strong support of Couy Griffin?

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver decried the audit and its associated canvassing of registered voters as a “vigilante” effort that could further undermine public faith in elections.

Remember when Clements spoke with zeal to a large crowd about their county-wide work with the New Mexico Audit Force seeking to prove fraud in Otero County? None was ever found. 

Do the taxpayers of Otero County then remember the legal fees we paid for, a commission that attempted to not certify the election but did so under duress? 

“We honestly don’t have a choice,” Commission Chairwoman Vickie Marquardt said before the vote, citing the potential for fines and removal from office if the panel ignored an order from the state Supreme Court to certify the primary results.

Commissioner Gerald Matherly said he voted to approve the results because he didn’t want to disenfranchise voters or candidates.

John Block, who won the Republican primary in Otero County for District 51 State Representative, said he was confident in the election results but still believes the commission did the right thing in refusing to certify the vote. 

“I thank them for the hard stance they had in the meeting,” Block said in an interview. “I’m disappointed that it had to come to this with the governor and the attorney general and the secretary of state pretty much forcing them to certify an election that they did not have 100 percent confidence in.”

The election deniers probing resulted in Otero County being a target of a congressional investigation into its legality and probed the legality of actions by the leadership of Otero County. 

All of that drama, the false narratives spewed at Flickinger via a huge public meeting, the legal expenses and now what we find is New Mexico’s elections have been ranked the best in the nation by the prestigious Elections Performance Index (EPI), a project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Election Data and Science Lab described as “a non-partisan, objective measure of U.S. election administration.”

The rankings, released late last week and based on the 2022 midterm elections, use a variety of performance indicators measuring aspects of election administration such as voter registration rates, post-election audits, security protocols, ballot rejection rates, wait times, and more

New Mexico moved up eight spots in the rankings since the 2018 Elections Performance Index when we were ranked ninth according to a press release from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office. 

The professional election administrators who keep the polls open and the votes counted and the engine of democracy running in New Mexico are exemplary and it’s an honor to see this work recognized on the national stage,said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Alongside my incredible staff and the tireless work of our thirty-three county clerks and their staffs, I’m proud to have helped modernize New Mexico’s elections by finding a critical balance between voter access and election security. Many members of the legislature also deserve thanks for their efforts to improve New Mexico’s elections over the years. I’m particularly proud of the Index’s recognition of New Mexico’s excellent online voter resources, our low ballot rejection rates, our use of post-election audits, and our membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) – all of which were cited as indicators of our peak performance.”

More information about the Elections Performance Index, including a deep dive into the methodology and data itself, can be found on their website.

Though New Mexico topped the rankings, it’s important to also recognize that election administration has improved all over the nation in recent years – a testament to the strength of our American democracy. As the MIT Election Lab stated in a press release: “The latest update to the EPI shows that election management across the United States improved in the 2022 midterm election, continuing an upward trend we see throughout the past few iterations of the index…In 2010, the nationwide average score on the index was just 63%. In 2022, that has leapt to 80%, an incredible achievement. Among the biggest factors driving state improvement have been improved data collection and practices, as well as more capable websites that feature better tools for voters.”

Check out New Mexico’s own online voter information portal at NMVOTE.ORG.

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