Tuesday marked the beginning of early voting for local elections throughout the state. It also marked the beginning of a voter education public service announcement campaign by the New Mexico Secretary of State and others.
The “Your Vote Counts, New Mexico!” campaign is a bipartisan series of videos made by county clerks and their staff from across the state, members of the Secretary of State’s office and other election administrators, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“New Mexico’s county clerks and election administrators are the best in the nation – they work with diligence and integrity every day to make sure our democracy functions with fairness and efficiency,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in the press release. “It’s important voters understand that these election professionals are your neighbors, friends, and community members and that New Mexicans know that your vote counts.”
The campaign’s goal is “humanizing election administrators and educating voters about election administration,” the press release stated.
The videos are expected to be distributed through social media and as PSAs on television and radio.The ads can be found on NMFirst.org and are available in English. Spanish and Diné.
The PSAs will air through the 2024 election cycle and were the work of a coalition coordinated by New Mexico First with support from The Carter Center and includes the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, the New Mexico League of Women Voters, New Mexico PBS, the New Mexico Local News Fund, Election Reformers Network and Elliott Marketing.
Election policies and the Solomon Peña case
The campaign comes after election administrators were harassed at polling places and county clerk’s offices after the 2020 election resulted in a loss for Republican incumbent President Donald Trump. Toulouse Oliver spoke to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in March about elections in New Mexico and about policies that had recently been approved by the NM Legislature.
“When many members of the public are mistrustful about the integrity of our elections, election administrators then bear the associated burdens of frivolous lawsuits, excessively burdensome public information requests, disruptive voters and poll workers, and outright threats and harassment,” Toulouse Oliver said in March.
The New Mexico legislature passed several elections-related bills this legislative session including HB 4 which expands voting rights, SB 180 which provides technical changes to the State Election Code, and SB 43 which makes intimidating election officials a felony.
New Mexico had a situation in December 2022 and January 2023 when six Democrat elected officials had their homes shot at.
Four of the incidents’ alleged mastermind, Solomon Peña, was arrested and charged.
The other two incidents were not related to the initial four, police said.
Peña was charged on 15 counts related to the incidents.
Peña ran against Democrat incumbent state Sen. Miguel Garcia in 2022 where Peña received 26 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 74 percent.
Peña was the alleged mastermind in a series of shootings that took place at the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, then-Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state Rep. Javier Martinez. The other two shootings took place at State Sen. Anthony “Moe” Maestas’ law office and Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s campaign headquarters, though police have not found evidence that these are connected.
Pena’s case was dismissed and removed to federal court in June. There is a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence scheduled for Oct. 19 against Peña and his co-defendants Demetrio Trujillo and Jose Louise Trujillo.
The defendants’ charges are now federal charges although district court can refile charges if they wish to do so.
Peña was placed on pre-trial detention early in the case and he remains in federal detention, according to court records.