The state Senate approved a bill seeking to update the state election code on a 23-13, party-line vote. SB 180 seeks to update the state’s Election Code including, but not limited to, specifying when the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA, can be used in election-based disclosures, 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. “This is a bill that should look very familiar to this body because we’ve seen it for three years now,” Duhigg said. “SB180 is simply a pared down version of last year’s rendition, which was SB 6, which passed this body unanimously… But all of the changes that are in this bill, are borne from actual experiences that our election administrators have been navigating. Many of them have already been bug tested.”
Many of the bill’s provisions were activated on a temporary basis during the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The NM Senate approved on Thursday SB 43 which makes the act of intimidating election officials a fourth degree felony. The bill was approved on a 38-0 vote and now the bill goes to the House for committee approval. “Under our current law, if someone seeks to intimidate a voter or challenger or watcher at the polls, by threatening force or violence or economic retaliation for the purpose of interfering, interfering with them voting for them, or preventing them from impartial administration of our election code that is a fourth degree felony,” bill sponsor Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said. “What this bill does is it also extends the same protections to the people who are actually putting our elections on: our election workers, everyone from Secretary of State to county clerks to municipal clerks as well as their employees and agents.”
More:Bill making intimidation of election officials a felony moves to Senate floor
The bill came following threats against election officials in recent elections. “Since the 2020 election, there’s been a sharp uptick in threats of violence against election workers,” Duhigg said.
The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that makes it a fourth degree felony to intimidate election workers at all levels. SB 43 amends the state Election Code to include making intimidating election officials a fourth degree felony. The bill passed unanimously on a 7-0 vote. Voters, election watchers and election challengers are already covered by the state Election Code, SB 43 would expand that to include election administrators including poll workers. “Unfortunately, since the 2020 election, there has been a sharp uptick in threats against election administrators and we want to make sure that they have the same protections that voters do,” bill sponsor Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said.
Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See our entire countdown of 2022 top stories, to date, here. A Blue Wave came to New Mexico in November with Democrats winning all three federal congressional seats for the third time since 1982 when New Mexico was granted a third congressional district. 1st Congressional District incumbent Democrat Melanie Ann Stansbury easily won reelection against Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes and Independent write-candidate Victoria L. Gonzales. Stansbury won 56 percent of the vote while Garcia Holmes won 44 percent and Gonzales received less than 1 percent with 58 votes in her favor.
Donald Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit over the use of ballot drop boxes in New Mexico’s elections—part of the campaign’s nationwide, unsuccessful efforts to overturn election results after he lost his reelection bid.
The campaign filed the lawsuit in mid-December, weeks after the election and after the state had certified its election results and the same day New Mexico’s electors cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit centered on the legality of ballot dropboxes for absentee ballots, and echoed a lawsuit filed in state court by the party. The party withdrew that lawsuit ahead of the election after it said the party came to a “consensual resolution” with the Secretary of State. Like the other lawsuits, dozens of which the campaign had dismissed or lost, the lawsuit was aimed at overturning election results. But unlike in some states with relatively close margins of victory for Joe Biden, Trump lost the election in New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes and over 11 percentage points.
After losing New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes and over 11 percentage points, and the same day the state voted to cast its electoral votes for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the Donald Trump campaign filed a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate thousands of votes and asked a federal judge to overturn the state’s election results. The Secretary of State’s office said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon, which was 41 days after the election, but a spokesman for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Alex Curtas said, “We look forward to its swift dismissal.”
The lawsuit is one of a series of dozens of legal actions that have failed to overturn any election results. In fact, on Monday, enough states cast electoral votes for Biden to secure the victory, the same result that has been clear for weeks. Some judges have tossed out lawsuits by Trump’s campaign and his allies for not filing the claims in a timely fashion. This lawsuit targets drop off boxes, which the campaign claims were illegally in place.
New Mexico’s five electoral votes formally were cast for Joe Biden on Monday. The five electors, all wearing masks, gathered for the socially distanced occasion in Room 307 in the Roundhouse, on Monday morning. The votes that take place in every state across the country are typically an unnoticed event every four years. But with incumbent President Donald Trump refusing to concede to Biden, the Democratic former vice president, and losing dozens of legal challenges seeking to overturn results in various states, there was increased attention on the formality. The official, certified election results in New Mexico found that Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris easily won the state, defeating Trump and running mate Mike Pence by nearly 100,000 votes: a 54.29 percent to 43.5 percent margin of the over 923,000 votes cast in the presidential race.
On Tuesday, the New Mexico canvassing board certified the general election results from earlier this month, making the winners of races—including the presidential race—official, except for some races that require recounts. The state canvassing board—a three-person panel with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil—met in the Roundhouse on Tuesday. All counties had already certified election results. And last week, the state began its legally mandated process of auditing random precincts with hand recounts to ensure vote counts were accurate. In all, 928,230 voters cast ballots, for 68.67 percent voter turnout of the state’s 1.3 million registered voters.
Less than a week before New Mexico certifies its election results, President Donald Trump’s political team said there are allegations of voter fraud in the state, even as the state’s post-election process to verify and audit results moved forward. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani made the allegations as part of a rambling press conference on Thursday that contradicted some arguments the Trump campaign has made in courts. The Trump campaign has consistently lost their cases as they attempt to overturn election results in states where the Republican lost, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “And the state that we’re looking at that would surprise you, we’re seeing very, very significant amount of fraud allegations in the state of New Mexico,” Giuliani claimed. A spokesman for the Secretary of State said elections in New Mexico were secure.
The alleged involvement of a progressive political group in the race for state Senate president pro tem seems to be causing some consternation among some New Mexico Senate Democrats.
According to sources familiar with the Senate Democratic Caucus, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, announced during a recent caucus meeting that he was approached by an unnamed political group that offered something in exchange if Cervantes voted for the groups choice for pro tem.
Sources NM Political Report spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said Cervantes did not specify what was offered or which political group offered it.
Cervantes declined to discuss the matter, but did not deny that it happened.
“I think it’s important that I work through the channels and the process we have for ethics issues,” Cervantes said. “So I’d tell you that I wouldn’t talk with you about that publicly until the appropriate time to do so.”
When asked which authority he reported the possible incident to, Cervantes didn’t give any more details.
“I have spoken with individuals in a confidential way and in the appropriate way that we have for reporting things of concern,” he said.
The pro tem position is voted on by the full Senate, but Democrats will have a 27-15 majority when the next legislative session begins in January.
One source said several caucus members have been approached by representatives from the New Mexico Working Families Party to discuss potential legislation, with the conversation quickly turning to the pro tem race.
Working Families state director and former state senator Eric Griego called the notion that his group would try to drum up votes with a bribe “absurd.”
“First of all, we’ve not talked to Senator Cervantes at all,” Griego said.
Griego said his group has been meeting with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to discuss legislation and that occasionally the pro tem race comes up in conversation. But, he said, his group has only offered up their list of preferred Senators in those conversations and that the implication of quid pro quo is “super libelous.”
“It’s patently false, we just don’t work that way,” Griego said.
The Working Families Party is a national organization that operates as both a political party in some states and also as a political advocacy group.
Griego said the local chapter worked hard this year to oust what the group calls “corporate champions.” The group endorsed a list of candidates this year and helped get moderate Democrats out of office during the primary. Griego said his group wanted to follow through with that effort.
“We worked our butts off to elect good people, both in the primary and the general,” Griego said. “And we’re not just going to hope that it turns out ok, in terms of leadership.