New Mexico braces for clashing poll watchers

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s top election regulator said Wednesday that precautions are being taken to guard against the possibility of deliberate disruptions by ballot candidates and party-appointed observers in the ongoing general election.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told a press conference that she was aware of efforts to recruit candidates for the ballot by people who believe the electoral process is rigged and may want to interfere.

“Maybe they feel like at the end of the day, even if they’re eventually taken out, they were able to slow the process down, put people off,” Toulouse Oliver said. “As long as a challenger follows the rules and does not obstruct the electoral process and does not bring bad faith challenges, he can stay there the whole process. But when we start seeing that other behavior, that’s when they have to go.

At the same time, Toulouse Oliver encouraged those concerned about the integrity of elections to volunteer and work at the polls under oath. She said hundreds of new poll workers responded.

Poll challengers and observers have traditionally functioned as a vital part of electoral transparency at polling stations, acting as the eyes and ears of major political parties to help ensure that voting mechanisms are administered fairly and precise.

Election officials in several states are concerned this year about a surge of campaign conspiracy supporters applying for these positions, with training by people who spread the lie spread by former President Donald Trump and his allies. that the 2020 presidential election was riddled with fraud.

Early absentee and limited voting is underway across New Mexico in the general election that culminates Nov. 8, with a long list of statewide offices vying, including the governor.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver helps certify the results of the state's primary election Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the State Capitol in Santa Fe.

Toulouse Oliver said election officials and county clerks are trained and empowered to respond to disruptive behavior, including delaying tactics. She said a presiding poll judge can ask law enforcement to remove a challenger or observer from the poll not only for reasons of public safety, but also for behavior that interferes with the ability to perform his duties. functions in a polling station.

“While a challenger or an observer or an observer is completely permitted to ask polling officials a question about what they are observing, they are not permitted to dominate that individual’s time,” Toulouse Oliver said. “They are not allowed to interpose baseless challenges for this challenge.”

Nearly 37,000 ballots were cast statewide on Tuesday. Registered Democrats made up about 56% of the votes cast.

Certification of New Mexico’s primary elections in June was nearly derailed by officials in a handful of counties amid voter anger and mistrust fueled by unproven conspiracies over vote-counting equipment and electoral procedures.

Toulouse Oliver is seeking re-election against Republican candidate Audrey Trujillo, a small-business owner from Corrales who is campaigning for broad-based election changes as part of the US First Secretary of State’s coalition.

As the election nears, Toulouse Oliver said his office is monitoring mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook for misinformation about the election and voting.

She said election officials were ready to debunk and demand the removal of misleading posts, and urged residents not to rely on “far-right” platforms for election information.

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