January 8, 2019

Herrell finishes review of ballots, won’t challenge election results

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Andy Lyman

Yvette Herrell

After inspecting absentee ballots from the 2nd Congressional District’s most-populous county, Republican Yvette Herrell decided not to challenge the results of the election she lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in November.

Herrell announced the news Monday, the deadline to challenge the results. Torres Small took the oath of office and was sworn into Congress last week.

“I did not believe that there were reasons to contest the election, but I did strongly feel that there were enough claims of irregularities to warrant a full review, and that we might learn things that could be of use to State House and Senate Committees as they continually try to update and improve our election laws,” according to Herrell’s statement.

Torres Small’s office declined to comment.

Republicans questioned why the high number of absentee ballots in Doña Ana County took longer than usual to count. While absentee ballots are usually tallied before polls close and made public shortly after, Doña Ana County didn’t finish counting ballots until the night after the election.

Torres Small defeated Herrell by 3,722 votes after absentee ballots overwhelmingly went the Democrat’s way.

Herrell also cited nearly 3,000 ballots that were requested by voters, but not returned. The day after the election, Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda Lopez Askin told NM Political Report she had received calls from voters that “organizations across the nation [were] sending absentee ballot applications to residents in Doña Ana County in large numbers.”

On election night, Herrell delivered a victory speech hours before Doña Ana County election officials announced thousands of absentee ballots remained uncounted.

Herrell said her campaign “received numerous reports of irregularities, both from poll workers as well as individual voters” and so decided to impound and inspect absentee ballots “for the sake of assuring voters that our elections do in fact provide for transparency and public review.”

The announcement from Herrell claimed similar issues were raised in a North Carolina congressional race, where the state’s elections board refused to seat the winner.

In that case, campaign workers for the Republican, who received the most votes, allegedly discarded the absentee ballots that included votes for the Democrat.

The Republican in the race, Mark Harris, filed a suit to be seated. Congressional Democrats are preparing to investigate that race, and some believe a new election will take place in the district.