New Mexico Secretary of State Sues County Commission
A day after the Otero County Board of Commissioners refused to certify the canvass of last Tuesday’s primary election results, the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office filed a request with the New Mexico Supreme Court for an order that would force the commissioners to do so.
“The post-election canvassing process is a key component of how we maintain our high levels of election integrity in New Mexico, and the Otero County Commission is flaunting that process by appeasing unfounded conspiracy theories and potentially nullifying the votes of every Otero County voter who participated in the primary,” Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver said in a press release late Tuesday announcing the suit.
The suit comes after the three commissioners voted against approving the canvass of the June 7 primary election results, thereby disrupting the certification process in the southeastern New Mexico's, Otero County.
Before the lawsuit was announced, Robyn Holmes, Otero County Clerk, told the media that her office had done a great job in how it conducted the election, but that the three commissioners, took the action because they do not trust the vote-counting machines that were used and are mandated by the state.
“Our commission decided they did not feel good about our tabulators. So, they requested that the county attorney get a court order to open all the ballot boxes and bring the poll workers back in and have them hand tally the ballots,” Holmes said.
“I have huge concerns with these voting machines. I really do. I don’t I just don’t, in my head, think that they can’t be manipulated,” said Vicky Marquet, who represents County Commission District 3.
The Secretary of State’s Office said the state election code does not permit such a recount at this stage, and the secretary’s office has not approved such a process.
The vote tabulating machines are sold by Dominion Voting Systems, a voting hardware and software company, which has become a target of widely debunked claims by former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters that the systems are susceptible to hacking and led to his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
Couy Griffin, the District 2 county commissioner and the controversial Cowboys For Trump founder also was vocal in his opposition.
"It all simmers down to trust. And right now, and I think I can speak for my other commissioners, we have a big issue with trust right now,” he said.
The Secretary of State’s Office has decried the county commission for not certifying the results.
“The commission is doing an extreme disservice to the voters of Otero County and candidates seeking to have their names on the general election ballot by refusing to certify the results of the 2022 Primary Election, and they’ve done this without any indication that the results were in question and over the objections of the Otero County clerk,” Alex Curtas, communications director for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday before the suit was announced.
Counties under state law must no sooner than six days and no more than 10 days after an election certify the results through a county commission with a summary of the election provided by the county clerk.
According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, the results then go to the state canvassing board for certification, allowing the winners of the primary to appear on the general election ballot in November.
Holmes told the commissioners Monday that failing to certify could delay efforts at recounts for several close county races, such as a Republican primary race in District 2 where the candidates are separated by just 11 votes.
She also warned that if the canvass was not approved by the commission and the county’s refusal was not because of flaws in how the election is counted, a judge could issue an order forcing them to do so. And failure to do so would mean they would be in contempt of court.
The Secretary of State’s Office has said the commission lacks the authority to take such action on all three items. Holmes has agreed and said that vote on those measures is beyond the purview of the commissioners.
“The legislators create election law. There the ones that set election law. Me as a county clerk and them as county commission, all we do is follow the law. So we don’t have any authority to create laws or write laws,” she said.
Commissioners have until Friday to certify the results. But Holmes said, before the lawsuit was filed, that most of the commissioners will likely be out of the county for the rest of the week.
It appears the commissioners won't certify so what happens next. The Supreme Court can order them to. If they fail to then they could be arrested for contempt of court. What happens when then? If the local law enforcement were not willing to enforce the contempt order the state police could be called in. If there was then a standoff between local law enforcement and the state police in enforcing the NM Supreme Courts orders then Federal Marshals could be called in. All scenarios bad for business, and bad for seeking investors to grow the jobs market of Otero County.
Basically, the commission in taking this stand, has overstepped their authority and played a hand they will ultimately loose. That loosing hand may cost the l0cal taxpayers dollars and the business community a lack of investment dollars, large national corporations and private investors want stability in local authority and predictability. That continues to hamper jobs growth and investment in Otero County.
The commission needs to be vocal in its approach to election integrity, but it also needs to remember where its auth0rity rests, and not overstep its role in the process of governance. The commission is a voice, but not the authority, over election law based upon the state constitution.
If the laws need to be changed then the pr0cess of change needs to be followed, or anarchy rules the land.
We are a nation that respects the laws of the land, otherwise the flag and the constitution are meaningless. Respect for the rule of law is a political leaders highest responsibility, Each commissioner swore and took an oath of office, under God to defend and protect the constitution for which is the foundation of law of the land.
Change the election laws if you don't agree with them, we all agree there needs to be revisions in process, but it must be done via the appropriate authority or via the process of government. Don't thumb your nose at the existing laws. Where does it end for all of us, when we pick and choose which laws to follow?