Increased absentee voting can’t offset the plunge in early voting from four years ago, but it easily exceeds the record-lows of 2014. In 2018, the last midterm election, voters turned out in record numbers, led by an open gubernatorial race in which Michelle Lujan Grisham won, defeating Republican Steve Pearce. This year, as Lujan Grisham seeks reelection, early voting dropped even as absentee voting is on pace to easily exceed not only 2018, but reach near the heights of returned absentee ballots in a midterm. As of the morning of Nov. 1, seven days ahead of Election Day, 259,486 New Mexicans had cast their ballots, 198,624 early in-person and another 60,862 by returning absentee ballots.
After inspecting absentee ballots from the 2nd Congressional District’s most-populous county, Republican Yvette Herrell decided not to challenge the results of the election she lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in November. Herrell announced the news Monday, the deadline to challenge the results. Torres Small took the oath of office and was sworn into Congress last week. “I did not believe that there were reasons to contest the election, but I did strongly feel that there were enough claims of irregularities to warrant a full review, and that we might learn things that could be of use to State House and Senate Committees as they continually try to update and improve our election laws,” according to Herrell’s statement. Torres Small’s office declined to comment.
Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she would not seek reelection to Congress and instead run for governor well before 2018. Lujan Grisham defeated her Republican opponent Steve Pearce with a healthy ten point lead in November after beating her primary opponent Jeff Apodaca in the Democratic primary election by 60 points. Not surprisingly, much of the state’s political news focused on the gubernatorial race, which often became contentious both in the primary and general election. That contention was ever-present at the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s pre-primary convention, when one of Lujan Grisham’s former congressional staffers interrupted the congresswoman’s stump speech and was subsequently arrested. Despite winning by a large margin at that convention, Lujan Grisham’s opponents refused to drop out and accused her of cheating during her campaign.
Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! If there was a competition for the New Mexican with the most mentions in national news stories, Debra Haaland would be a top contender. Haaland’s win received a lot of attention as she is the first Native American woman to represent New Mexico in Congress and one of the first two in the U.S.
Haaland came into the race as no stranger to New Mexico politics. A former candidate for lieutenant governor, Haaland was elected to by the Democratic Party of New Mexico to serve as the party’s chairwoman in 2015. Her competition that year was Richard Ellenberg, who succeeded her in that position, but was later ousted after his handling of accusations of sexual harassment within the party.
All eyes are on Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham. With about two months until the legislative session starts and just weeks until she takes office, speculation and rumors about how she’ll run the state are growing. Lujan Grisham will appoint new department heads for the state agencies, but she has another list of important appointments to make shortly after taking office. Lujan Grisham will also have to fill state judicial vacancies and a New Mexico Senate seat in southern New Mexico as she takes office in January. During her campaign, Lujan Grisham also said she would like to see all new members of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.
Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.
The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.
While turnout increased statewide, Democratic counties with large populations saw among the biggest gains on Election Day. Turnout statewide in 2018 was 55 percent, compared to 40.35 percent in 2014 and 52.71% in 2010. In 2018, 693,893 voters cast ballots*, the most of any midterm in state history. This is the easy way to explain how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham won by a large margin, and also why Democrats all the way down the ballot had a successful night. Digging further down into the numbers, it shows just how impressive turnout was in some districts, while in others turnout lagged.
Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and Gov. Susana Martinez made their first joint-public appearance since Election Day on Friday to announce that the two are in the midst of a smooth transition. Both Lujan Grisham and Martinez highlighted the significance of Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor, handing the reins of state government over to another Latina. Lujan Grisham will be sworn in on Jan. 1. The outgoing governor also took a moment to take credit for handing over a healthy state government to Lujan Grisham.
All eyes were on Doña Ana County Wednesday night, as elections observers waited for county election workers to tally thousands of absentee ballots. When the county released the results for the 2nd Congressional District race on Wednesday night, the 6,411 to 1,847 margin gave Democrat Xochitl Torres Small a lead larger than the likely number of provisional ballots left. Many asked why it took election workers in Doña Ana County so long to count the votes. It came down to a lack of workers and an unforeseen influx of absentee votes. The county released the results of 8,350 absentee ballots Wednesday night (only 8,258 of which included votes for the razor-thin 2nd Congressional District race).
With absentee ballots in Doña Ana County finally counted, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small will be the next U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Torres Small needed a little over 1,800 more votes than Republican Yvette Herrell to win the race before the county’s absentee ballots were included in the vote totals. Torres Small blew past that number and netted an additional 4,564 votes, which gave her a 50.69 percent to 49.31 percent lead over her Republican opponent. In all, there were 8,258 absentee ballots for the race. Related: Democrats take back governorship
Wednesday evening, the Associated Press called the race for Torres Small.