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.
The Associated Press and other media outlets projected Saturday morning that former Vice President Joe Biden won enough electoral votes to win the presidency. The Associated Press called the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and its 20 electoral votes, for Biden at 11:25 am. EST.
Biden is scheduled to speak Saturday night. President Donald Trump did not concede the race on Saturday, and instead promised to pursue unspecified legal remedies. Trump said the race is “far from over” in a statement.
As election vote counts drag on for days in some other areas of the country, New Mexico will finish its vote counting by Wednesday. This is despite not only record-breaking overall turnout, but also record-shattering voting by absentee ballot. It all took part with the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, necessitating special procedures for elections. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told NM Political Report that Election Day largely went smoothly, with just “pedestrian, every election” problems that crop up, “nothing on a wide scale or systemic level.”
But the quick vote was a contrast compared to past elections in parts of the state, both the 2018 general election and this June’s primary elections. One example was Doña Ana County.
Voters appear to have approved a constitutional amendment proposal that would make sweeping changes to the state’s Public Regulation Commission. Constitutional amendment ballot initiative #1 would reduce the number of commissioners on the state’s Public Regulation Commission from five to three and would make those positions appointed by the governor rather than elected by voters.
The amendment received 436,760 votes at the end of the night, representing 55 percent of total votes counted, while 351,208 voters, representing 45 percent of the vote counted so far, opted against the amendment. These totals are likely to change in the coming days as more absentee and provisional ballots are counted. Commissioners Jeff Byrd, Theresa Becenti-Aquilar, Valerie Espinoza and chairman Steve Fischmann opposed the amendment; while commissioner Cynthia Hall supported the amendment.
The amendment was the result of a joint resolution that passed the state Legislature in 2019. In New Mexico, voters must approve any alteration to the state’s constitution.
Just like two years ago, Republican Yvette Herrell declared victory late Tuesday night. She wrote on Twitter, “It’s the honor of my life to be elected to serve [the 2nd Congressional District]. My commitment to each citizen of our district is that I will serve each of them with integrity as we work together to rebuild our economy and protect the values that make America great!”
This time, however, the Associated Press projected Herrell as the victor in the race, at 12:13 a.m.
Torres Small’s campaign said early Wednesday morning she did not have a comment but would reach out later in the morning. In 2018, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small ended up winning the race narrowly, after all absentee ballots were counted. Herrell had a much smaller lead after the tally ended on election night in 2018.
While the official results are still not in, the New Mexico House races were mostly a win for Democrats.
About three dozen of the contested races Tuesday showed wins for Democrats, although some of them were extremely close and not all ballots were counted by the end of the night. But with the House already having a sizable majority of Democratic members, the party largely maintained its majority. Here are some notable races from election night, with all numbers as of 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday. House District 12
Brittney Barreras will be the first candidate to be elected without being tied to a political party. According to the Bernalillo County Clerk’s count, Barreras received about 70 percent of the vote compared to her write-in opponent, Democratic Rep. Art De La Cruz.
While De La Cruz is the incumbent, he was only recently appointed to the spot after former state Representative Patricio Ruiloba resigned.
Teresa Leger Fernandez beat Republican Alexis Johnson for the open seat in the House of Representatives for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District.
The Associated Press called the election for Leger Fernandez at 9:12 p.m., with 83 percent of precincts reporting partial results and 10 percent of precincts reported full results. Leger Fernandez thanked those who voted for her, and said she will work to earn the trust of those who did not vote for her, in her victory speech. “I promise to listen to your voices and strategize with you to help us all solve our common problems,” she said during a virtual election event held by the New Mexico Democratic Party. “2021 will be transformative as we address the failures that have caused so much death and misery, as we resolve ourselves to act in unison, in the face of a crisis.”
Leger Fernandez runs the Santa Fe-based social impact law firm Leger Law and Strategy. She was appointed as vice chair to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under President Barack Obama’s administration.