Some Democratic elected officials from New Mexico and the party’s state chair called for a member of their party to step down as a Doña Ana County Commissioner on Thursday after allegations of sexual misconduct. A day after the Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra criticized party chair Richard Ellenberg for not doing enough to address Martinez-Parra’s allegations against Vasquez, Ellenberg issued an apology and called for Vasquez to resign. “While I can’t force his hand, I am calling on John Vasquez to resign from the County Commission and the County Central Committee, and I will repeat that call as often as is necessary until we are successful,” Ellenberg wrote in a statement Thursday. Following Ellenberg’s statement, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps.
Election Day is not just a day in New Mexico. Between school boards, soil and water conservation districts, community college districts and hospital districts, it can seem like the voting never stops. “We have a vast number of small, rural elections in our state happening pretty much all the time,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told a committee of the House of Representatives on Thursday. But whether people actually know about, much less participate in, these myriad elections is another matter. In response, the local government committee of the House approved a sweeping bill that would consolidate virtually all nonpartisan local elections on the same day.
By the time the 2016 presidential election rolled around, New Mexico had one of the lowest rates of voting-age citizens registered to vote. Only two-thirds of the state’s eligible voters had signed up to cast a ballot, compared to at least 80 percent in Maine and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps unsurprisingly, New Mexico also had one of the lowest rates of election turnout among its voting-age population. One state lawmaker wants to make it easier for people to vote through an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution that would require the state to ensure every citizen who is eligible to vote is at least registered. Senate Joint Resolution 5 would ask New Mexicans to put the state among a growing number with what is known as automatic voter registration.
A Republican announced this week she will run for New Mexico Secretary of State. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque attorney JoHanna Cox plans to run for the position as a Republican. According to the Journal, Cox decided to run for Secretary of State to reform election policies and procedures. Cox, an attorney, has held leadership positions in both the Valencia and Santa Fe County district attorney’s offices, before opening her own private practice. Cox’s announcement comes days after former Democratic State Representative Sandra Jeff announced her intention to run for Secretary of State as a member of the Libertarian Party.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was quick to react to the dissolution of President Donald Trump’s controversial commission that sought evidence of voter fraud. “This is a victory for the integrity and privacy of New Mexico voters,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement Wednesday evening. “From its inception, President Trump’s election commission never demonstrated that the collected data would be used for lawful purposes, how voters’ personal data would be secured, or how comparing insufficient data would produce any meaningful conclusions.”
The White House cited the lack of cooperation from states as one reason to dissolve the commission. “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”
A federal judge said U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce can use money raised for federal office in his campaign for governor, giving his campaign a big boost. The court order means that Pearce’s campaign coffers will grow by nearly $1 million, perhaps putting his campaign at over $2 million cash on hand. Pearce had $911,000 cash on hand in his last campaign finance report six weeks ago. The preliminary injunction also means that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver cannot enforce state donation limits to the funds Pearce raised for his federal campaigns. “The Secretary of State and her team are reviewing the details of the judge’s decision and will then consider next steps,” Secretary of State spokesman Joey Keefe said.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced a plan today for lobbyists to take sexual harassment training before each session of the New Mexico Legislature. “Sexual harassment in any form is never acceptable,” Toulouse Oliver said in emailed statement to reporters. “This is just a first step, but it is my hope that by giving lobbyists the opportunity to enroll in sexual harassment training programs, we will be able to prevent some instances of misconduct from happening in the first place.” The current lobbyist registration forms will be amended to include a checkbox for lobbyists to confirm they have taken the training. Those forms will be searchable and online. The training would be voluntary, but Toulouse Oliver hopes it could someday be mandatory.
During the 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security didn’t know which state officials to communicate with to relay the threat of attempted Russian interference. That confusion is one thing U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich wants to fix with the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, which he introduced with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. “I think overall, over the course of the last few decades, we may have become complacent as a country as to the potential for this,” Heinrich said of attempts to influence elections in the United States. “There were cases where they were maybe engaged with the wrong decisionmaker or talking to the vendor instead of, say a secretary of state or a county clerk,” Heinrich said. “Just getting all of that written down in a way that sort of provides a roadmap for a real-time event so that the response is quick provides a lot of advantages.”
If passed, the legislation would strengthen the security of the country’s elections system, which are not centrally run by the federal government, but by state and local officials.
Ten bills invalidly vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez are now law. A judge declined Martinez’s effort to keep the bills from becoming law while they appealed a previous decision against Martinez. And shortly thereafter Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced she chaptered those ten bills into law (all ten are listed below). “As ordered by the Court, my office has swiftly chaptered all ten of the bills that the Court determined were improperly vetoed during the 2017 legislative session,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. This is a breaking news story and reactions will be added as we receive them.
New Mexico was told there are no signs that Russians targeted the state’s elections systems ahead of the 2016 elections. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver made the announcement Friday afternoon, after news broke that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security contacted the elections officials in each state and informed 21 there were attempts to breach their systems. The Associated Press reported DHS said there was no evidence any votes were affected. It’s not clear how many states saw their elections systems breached. “Fortunately, it appears that New Mexico was not one of the states targeted by Russian hackers last year,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “However, cybersecurity threats are still a major concern and should be handled with the utmost seriousness and attention to detail.