April 1, 2020

GOP opposes mail-in primaries

The Republican Party of New Mexico and members of both the House and Senate Republican caucuses filed a motion on Tuesday to intervene in an attempt to block an effort by county clerks and the Secretary of State to move to a primarily mail-in election for June’s primaries.

Update: The state Supreme Court accepted the motion to intervene and set a hearing for April 14, with responses from the governor of New Mexico,t he legislature, Democratic party of New Mexico, Libertarian Party of New Mexico and the League of Women Voters filed by April 8.

The motion argues that the current absentee system, which does not require an excuse to request an absentee ballot, would suffice for mail-in elections.

The petition from the clerks and Secretary of State says that a mail-in election would be necessary to protect the public, election workers and election administrators from COVID-19, in light of strict measures the state has implemented to slow the spread of the disease that has already caused five deaths in New Mexico and thousands nationwide.

The Republicans’ motion to intervene calls the clerks’ effort “one of the most audacious in recent memory” and says it asks the state supreme court “to violate separation of powers by making new law (in conflict with existing statute) in an area that is the acknowledged constitutional ‘providence of the Legislature.’”

The brief argues that even if it were true that the Legislature couldn’t convene in a special session to amend state election laws, that the county clerks don’t explain how “why the simpler and safer approach of circulating absentee-ballot applications to the public and encouraging them to voluntarily vote absentee would not suffice.”

It also brings up the argument that there are discussions of holding legislative hearings remotely, including through teleconferencing. It would likely necessitate rule changes, as happened in Utah and Pennsylvania, or perhaps changes to the law, 

In statements, legislative leaders and the state Republican Party chairman said an all-mail election would lead to voter fraud.

“Unfortunately there has not been a major effort by the Secretary of State to clean up the voter rolls in some time, and this deceptive effort will lead to voter fraud just as it has in other states,” House Republican Leader Jim Townsend said. “Flawed elections will lead to increased public distrust, and we have enough distrust of government in New Mexico.”

The Republican motion said that an Albuquerque Public Schools mail-in election with 53,000 ballots returned as undeliverable shows that a mail-only election would not work, and claimed the number “does not take into account any ballots that were fraudulently voted,” saying it would be “an easy task to accomplish” in New Mexico.

Mail-in elections take place in five states; an article in The Atlantic notes that there have been no serious allegations of voter fraud in states with all-mail-in elections, such as California, Washington and Oregon.

Meanwhile, conservative organizations like The Heritage Foundation have said that mail-in elections would lead to voter fraud. The Heritage article was written by Hans von Spakovsky, who was part of President Donald Trump’s ill-fated voter fraud panel and whose alleged expertise was part of a 2018 voter fraud case in Kansas that crumbled under examination.

“I want to make sure New Mexicans know that the entire reason for asking the state Supreme Court to allow the state’s election administrators to conduct an all-mail 2020 Primary Election is to protect the health and safety of every voter wishing to participate,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement on Tuesday. “My Office and the state’s County Clerks are prepared to conduct an all-mail election in June and we will make it easy for every eligible voter to participate.”