A Santa Fe state district court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Republican Party of New Mexico against the New Mexico Secretary of State and two county clerks on Thursday.
The suit alleged that both the Taos and Guadalupe County clerks’ offices were not adequately monitoring absentee ballot drop boxes and requested that a judge issue a temporary restraining order, followed by a permanent injunction to “either immediately discontinue the use of drop boxes or ensure that they are made inaccessible to the public during non-polling hours and kept continuously, directly monitored by at least two bipartisan election officials during polling hours.”
After the coronavirus pandemic and record turnout led to shuttered polling places and mountains of absentee ballots slowing the count in June’s primary election, New Mexico county clerks say they’re hiring more election workers and opening more places to vote in person for the general election. Still, there is anxiety about how the system will handle what many across the political spectrum are calling “the most important election of a lifetime.” Most believe it will take longer in 2020 to know some of the winners, particularly in New Mexico’s hotly contested southern congressional district. And the presidential election, nationally, appears unpredictable as well. Across the country, political strategists who have been encouraging absentee ballots for months have recently shifted to pushing early in-person voting. In New Mexico, public officials and advocates have coalesced around a common mantra: Vote early and be patient while the votes are counted.
A group is sending absentee ballot applications to voters throughout the state. While the ballots are valid, they are still causing some to question whether they are official. The ballots come from the Center for Voter Information, which is affiliated with the Voter Participation Center. Previously, NM Political Report wrote about the VPC sending voter registration forms to tens-of-thousands of eligible but unregistered voters. Some people have reached out to NM Political Report after receiving the ballot applications in the mail with concerns if they are valid.
Democrats in New Mexico, including the Secretary of State, rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the upcoming federal elections be delayed. Trump floated the unlikely idea on Twitter Thursday morning, writing, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
After pushback, including from Republican leaders who said the idea of moving Election Day back was a non-starter, Trump tweeted that he was glad he got the media to talk about mail-in voting. Election Day is set by federal law and leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, including Republicans, rejected the idea.
State officials have urged New Mexicans to vote via absentee ballots if at all possible, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, it appears, voters have heard this and are responding. New Mexicans are voting by absentee ballot at an unprecedented rate for this June’s primaries.
As of Tuesday morning, 98,485 voters in the primary had cast ballots through absentees. In 2008, the year that previously had the highest amount of absentee ballots for a primary had just 30,854 absentee ballots cast. That number will continue to grow—as of Tuesday morning, 155,673 voters requested absentee ballots.
In an April report that warns of the risks of fraud in mail-in voting, a conservative legal group significantly inflated a key statistic, a ProPublica analysis found. The Public Interest Legal Foundation reported that more than 1 million ballots sent out to voters in 2018 were returned as undeliverable. Taken at face value, that would represent a 91% increase over the number of undeliverable mail ballots in 2016, a sign that a vote-by-mail system would be a “catastrophe” for elections, the group argued.