Secretary of State, Speaker of the House address voting concerns: ‘It is safe to vote in person’

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said it is safe to vote in-person and emphasized COVID-safe practices in place at polling locations in the state during a Facebook Live event Wednesday afternoon addressing election and voting concerns. 

“I want to remind everyone watching that it is safe to vote in person in New Mexico,” Egolf, a House Democrat, said. “The Secretary of State and the County Clerks have made sure that election workers have personal protective equipment. As long as you’re wearing a mask and stand six feet away from folks, it is perfectly safe to vote in New Mexico, early and on election day. So please don’t be afraid to go out and vote.”

So far, more than 620,000 voters have already cast their ballots, representing roughly 80 percent of the 2016 election. 

“We are seeing record breaking turnout in New Mexico, no question,” she said. 

Toulouse Oliver also encouraged voters to vote early if possible, and to be prepared for a wait if they vote in-person. 

“We have several full days of early voting left, plus Election Day itself,” she said. “Usually we have a majority of the vote cast before Election Day but just a huge chunk is cast on Election Day.

Secretary of State talks voting by mail in New Mexico

Election Day is a month and a half away and New Mexico’s Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver wants voters to know the state’s election process works and is safe and secure. 

Over the past several weeks, there has been speculation from President Donald Trump and the Republican Party that voting by mail could result in widespread voter fraud. Questions about how secure mail in ballots are is nothing new. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a push by many to encourage voters to mail in their ballots instead of showing up in person to vote. 

Toulouse Oliver told NM Political Report that she is confident in both her staff and the county clerks’ ability to accurately and efficiently process ballots on Election Day and even the days leading up to it. 

National political rhetoric has also seemed to create confusion in New Mexico whether mailing in a ballot is safe. Trump has expressed his concern with mailing in ballots, yet he has voted by mail in Florida, where he is registered to vote. Further, the Republican Party of New Mexico has sent out at least one batch of mailers, encouraging voters to request an absentee ballot and vote in support of Trump.

Straight party issue spurs Portales Libertarian to run for Secretary of State

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s decision to add straight-party ticket voting to November’s ballot has caused waves across the political party spectrum. But, besides uniting independents, Libertarians and Republicans in a state Supreme Court challenge, Toulouse Oliver’s proposed action has spurred one Portales woman to try and take over as the state’s election administrator. Libertarian Ginger Grider said Toulouse Oliver’s decision to put  a straight-party ticket option on the ballot in November “greatly influenced” her decision to run for Secretary of State. A straight-party option on the ballot would allow voters to mark a political party of their choice as an indication for votes further down the ballot. By marking a ballot for the Democratic Party, for example, every Democrat on the ballot receives a vote.

Libertarian Secretary of State nominee drops out of race

The race for New Mexico Secretary of State is down to two candidates after the Libertarian nominee Sandra Jeff dropped out on Tuesday. In a letter to the New Mexico Libertarian Party of New Mexico, Jeff cited “unforeseen personal obligations” as the reason she is ending her campaign. Jeff did not answer calls from NM Political Report, but state Libertarian Attorney General nominee and de facto party spokesman Blair Dunn said Jeff plans to run instead for Vice President of the Navajo Nation. “Certainly from our party’s standpoint, she’s already been doing quite a bit to promote libertarianism in the [Navajo] Nation and we think it’s really cool and it’s a very big opportunity and big honor to have her take that over and to have that role, especially as a Libertarian,” Dunn said. Unlike when the Libertarian candidate dropped out in the race for U.S. Senate, there isn’t a high-profile replacement waiting in the wings.

Libertarians miss general election ballot for governor

New Mexicans likely won’t see a Libertarian candidate for governor on the ballot in November. While still unofficial, the results of a recount conducted Wednesday show the party’s primary candidates for those races lacked enough write-in votes to make it onto the general election ballot. Bob Walsh, a gubernatorial hopeful, and Robin Dunn, running for lieutenant governor, both entered the race on the Libertarian ticket after the filing deadline, forcing them to run as write-in candidates. Per state law, Walsh and Dunn each needed 230 votes in the primary election to be included as candidates in November. Walsh was short by 44 votes, and Dunn by 40, to make it onto the general election ballot.

GOP Secretary of State candidate drops out of race

New Mexico Republican candidate for Secretary of State and Albuquerque lawyer  JoHanna Cox announced Wednesday she’s dropping out of her race. Cox cited the need to take care of her family as why she could not continue running. “Unfortunately, I am unable to continue this campaign because my family requires my full attention at this moment,” Cox wrote in a statement. Cox said she would “give my full support to the candidate who takes my place on the ballot.” The Albuquerque Journal recently reported Cox faced three legal malpractice lawsuits in the past six years.

Former chair files complaint against the Libertarian Party of New Mexico

A recently-minor political party in New Mexico may being seeing its first indication of political growing pains. At the very least, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has shown that even a once-fringe party is not immune from accusations of impropriety. A former state Libertarian Party chair filed a formal complaint Monday against the New Mexico party alleging certain members violated state law, rendering its current candidates “illegitimate.”

Former party chair Elizabeth Honce filed the complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, along with affidavits from five other people who were present at the convention. They recounted an act during the party’s 2017 state convention she says violated state law. In 2017, Honce said, some party members changed the convention schedule, effectively staging a coup d’état for a new group of party leadership.

Notes from the field: Candidate filing day

SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered  a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field:
9:05 a.m.
I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.

Republican announces candidacy for Secretary of State

A Republican announced this week she will run for New Mexico Secretary of State. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque attorney JoHanna Cox plans to run for the position as a Republican. According to the Journal, Cox decided to run for Secretary of State to reform election policies and procedures. Cox, an attorney, has held leadership positions in both the Valencia and Santa Fe County district attorney’s offices, before opening her own private practice. Cox’s announcement comes days after former Democratic State Representative Sandra Jeff announced her intention to run for Secretary of State as a member of the Libertarian Party.

Sandra Jeff changes party registration to Libertarian, eyes Secretary of State position

Former State Representative and former State Senate candidate Sandra Jeff can now add one more “former” before her name: former Democrat. Jeff updated her voter registration to the Libertarian Party Thursday afternoon at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office with the intention of running for Secretary of State. “I want to stop corruption, and I feel that I have every right to work with the constituents within the state of New Mexico to bring forth a new horizon because that is what is needed in this state in order for us to move forward,” Jeff told NM Political Report. Jeff represented House District 5, which includes a large portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, for two terms before she was kicked off the ballot during her run for a third term because she did not collect enough valid signatures. As a Representative, she sometimes voted against fellow Democrats on key issues, most notably when she skipped a vote to raise the minimum wage in 2014, even after then-Vice President Joe Biden called her personally and asked her to vote in favor of it.