April 21, 2023

New Mexico officials respond to the Dominion/Fox News settlement

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

"Vote Here" signs in front of the Otero County Administration Building on New York Avenue in Alamogordo.

New Mexico’s top election official praised the settlement by Fox News in a defamation case over lies told by the network over the 2020 election.

On April 18, Dominion Voting Systems accepted a nearly $800 million settlement from Fox News in the defamation case against the cable channel giant. This came on the same day the defamation case was set to go to trial.

The suit came following former President Donald Trump’s re-election bid failed and he then claimed the election was not properly conducted since he lost.

“The historic settlement is a victory for Dominion Voting Systems just as much as it is a victory for our democracy and for voter confidence,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Wednesday. “Though the harm done by election denialism and false narratives about the 2020 election is immense, this settlement against Fox News provides needed accountability. It sends a strong message that perpetuating outright lies about our elections will be met with harsh consequences. Elections in New Mexico are safe, fair, and secure and hopefully the settlement of this lawsuit helps to further discredit the people and organizations that push election lies in our state and across the nation.”

New Mexico Speaker of the House Javier Martinez agreed.

“This settlement sends a clear message that election misinformation and lies will not be tolerated,” Martinez said. “In New Mexico, we understand how these lies threaten our democracy, which is why we are prioritizing empowering people at the ballot box. The New Mexico Voting Rights Act should be seen as a model for protecting the right to vote and the security of elections nationwide.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the voting rights bill into law on March 30.

More: Guv signs sweeping new voting rights bill into law

The law provides voting protections and improved voting access for Native Americans through the Native American Voting Rights Act, enhances voter registration systems and voter data privacy, restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated felons, created a voluntary permanent absentee ballot list which allows voters who usually vote by absentee ballot to be on a list so they don’t have to reapply for each election, sets up automatic voter registration when updating address or presenting documents at Motor Vehicle Divisions and other state agencies and designates Election Day as a school holiday.

Martinez was one of eight legislators who sponsored HB 4, the Voting Rights Act, another was Albuquerque Democrat Sen. Katy Duhigg.

“I am happy to see some accountability for the dangerous election misinformation that Fox has spread,” Duhigg said. “This was not just distasteful running after ratings — these lies put the lives of election workers at risk, spurred states around the nation to disenfranchise voters, and fundamentally undermined our democracy. I hope that this settlement is the beginning, not the end, and that those who seek to weaken our society by spreading falsehoods about our elections understand that they will have to answer for their actions.”

Duhigg sponsored a bill that makes it a crime to intimidate election officials. SB 43 was also signed into law on March 30.

The bill defines intimidation as “inducing or attempting to induce fear.”

One of the major proponents of what became known as “The Big Lie” was conservative cable news network Fox News which claimed that the election was “stolen” from incumbent Trump when in reality, the election was won by current President Joe Biden. Fox News hosts and others claimed malfeasance by Dominion Voting Systems, a company that provides voting hardware and software.

Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos issued a statement Tuesday about the settlement.

“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my Company, our employees, and our customers,” Poulos said.  “Nothing can ever make up for that… Truthful reporting in the media is essential to our democracy. Dominion, our employees and our partners are grateful to the court for allowing the process for the truth to come out.”

Poulos thanked the election officials for their work.

“Without them there is no democracy, and they work tirelessly to that end and deserve much better,” Polous said.

This is not the end of the legal peril for Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, which is facing another defamation case from a voting software company.

Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News.

The New Mexico Republican Party was contacted for this story but did not offer comment on the settlement.