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

New Mexico officials respond to the Dominion/Fox News settlement

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.

Former Congressowman Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, announced her candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District at a rally April 10, 2023.

Herrell announces candidacy to win back CD 2

The battleground 2nd Congressional District race has begun with Alamogordo Republican Yvette Herrell announcing her candidacy at an event Monday night at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Herrell’s announcement comes mere months after she lost the seat in the 2022 general election to Las Cruces Democrat Gabe Vazquez. “We don’t have a seat at the table. We don’t have anybody watching out for our ranchers,” Herrell said. “We have got to work on every single level: county, state, federal, local.

Trump arraigned on charges in NY

Former President Donald Trump turned himself into authorities Tuesday, on charges relating to his paying hush money to adult film performer Stormy Daniels. Trump, 76, pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of first degree falsifying business records in New York Supreme Court for allegedly buying off information that could have portrayed him in a negative light. This included allegedly paying Daniels, another woman and a doorman through an intermediary during the 2016 election cycle as a means of keeping Trump’s affairs with the women quiet. Trump allegedly provided the money even though Daniels reportedly had been open about his affair with her in previous years. Court records state that Trump and others were complicit in a scheme that “violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York.

Guv signs sweeping new voting rights bill into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a voting rights expansion into law on Thursday. 

HB 4 updates the state Election Code by expanding voting rights across New Mexico including the addition of the Native American Voting Rights Act and restores rights to formerly incarcerated felons. “For me, in particular, you know, New Mexico already is a state with expansive and productive voting rights access and protections, and that’s meaningful and I really want to say thank you to the state and all of the coalition members who have been clear about that,” Lujan Grisham said during the bill’s signing ceremony. “All the things that we have, to some degree, been able to take for granted, because we have good leadership… We cannot, in this climate, take that for granted that governors and secretaries of state and policymakers are going to be able to navigate it and we want to send a message to the rest of the country. That this is what voting protection and access should look like.”

More: Election reform bills pass Legislature

More than 50 organizations representing thousands of New Mexicans make up the coalition Lujan Grisham mentioned.

Only a couple of proposed constitutional amendments make it to voters

Legislators sought to start the process to change the state constitution with several pieces of legislation this year. The proposals sought to place constitutional amendments on the 2024 general election ballot. 

Only two made it through the system: HJR 5, which would extend the property tax exemption for disabled veterans, and HJR 6, which would increase property tax exemptions for honorably discharged service members. HJR 5 extends the property tax exemption, currently only available for those veterans who are 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to allow those that are under 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to qualify for the exemption. “The amount of the exemption shall be in a percentage equal to the percentage of the veteran’s disability rating determined pursuant to federal law,” the legislation states. Similarly, HJR 6 would increase the property tax exemption for honorably discharged service members and their widows or widowers from $4,000 to $10,000 with an annual adjustment based on inflation.

Campaign finance updates fail in House

The House voted down a bill sought to modernize the Campaign Reporting Act. SB 42 sought to simplify campaign reporting compliance for some elected officials and to provide more sunshine on campaign finances. The bill failed on 33-36 vote. Legislators debate portions of the bill that would change the way loans to candidates from family members would be reported. There were questions about how the difference between a loan from a family member to help fix a home issue such as plumbing or roofing was different from a loan toward the candidates campaigning. 

There was also discussion about the restricted times during legislative sessions when a legislator may receive a donation through the mail but not cash it until after the legislative session concluded.

Bill updating election code passes House

The state House of Representatives approved a bill that updates the state Election Code on a 44-25 vote. SB 180 requests an update the state’s Election Code including specifying when the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA, can be used for election information, allowing electronic nominating petition signatures, creating an election security program, requiring training for election challengers and watchers, revising requirements for the impoundment of ballots, audits, voting machine rechecks and recounts, revising election-related crimes and authorizing taxpayer information to be revealed to the secretary of state for purposes of maintaining voter registration records. More: Bill updating Election Code heads to House floor

Debate on the House floor included questions from opponents about how safe drop boxes are and whether the closed circuit video from the drop boxes are subject to inspection under the state’s open records law, as well as questions about how electronic signatures for candidate nominating petitions can be used as well as paper petitions with personal signatures. Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey said while presenting the bill that no ballot boxes are connected to the internet which has been a worry by those who falsely claim the 2020 presidential election results were not accurate. 

More than 60 lawsuits were filed contesting election counting processes. These lawsuits either failed, were dropped or are ongoing.

A screenshot of the House Floor Session webcast Feb. 15, 2023 when Rep. Matthew McQueen presented HB 103 which updates the Campaign Reporting Act.

Campaign finance reporting changes head to House floor

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed an update to the Campaign Finance Act. SB 42 seeks to simplify campaign reporting compliance for some elected officials and to provide more transparency on campaign finances. Amended to include HB 103, bill presenter and HB 103 co-sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said SB 42 was previously a disclosure bill. The addition of HB 103 adds a modernization effort to align campaign finance reporting with the modern election process. “Senate Bill 42 requires out of state groups making independent expenditures of $5,000 or more to disclose the source of those funds.

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

Voting rights expansion bill heads to governor’s desk

The House of Representatives approved amendments made by the Senate  to a bill expanding the state Election Code on a 42-25 vote Monday. This is the final step for the bill before it goes to the governor’s desk. HB 4 would expand automatic voter registration, restore convicted felons’ right to vote upon release from prison, create a voluntary permanent absentee voter list, and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act to the state Election Code. One of the Senate amendments to the bill is a definition of incarceration. “‘Correctional facility’ means a jail, prison or other detention facility that is used for the confinement of an adult, whether operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state or a private contractor on behalf of the state or a political subdivision of the state,” the bill states.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Bill to make intimidating an election official a felony goes to governor

The House floor approved a bill on a 62-1 vote to make it a fourth degree felony to intimidate election workers such as poll workers and county clerks and other election employees. The bill would expand the state’s election code to include the penalties. There was no debate on the bill. SB 43 passed the Senate unanimously. More: Bill prohibiting intimidation of election officials moves to House floor

“SB 43 amends the election code to make intimidation of an election official a felony.