New Mexico high court rejects GOP suit on absentee ballots

Local Elections

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit Tuesday by the state Republican Party alleging that partisan poll challengers are being unfairly denied oversight of the initial absentee ballot verification process.

Three justices including the court’s lone Republican, Judith Nakamura, denied the petition to intervene in the absentee voting process. Two Democratic justices recused themselves as they run for election against Republican challengers.

The lawsuit from Republicans including several state legislators and county clerks alleged that partisan challengers are being shut out of the initial verification process unnecessarily, based on privacy regulations.

Under pandemic-related voting procedures in New Mexico, absentee voters must sign and place the last four digits of their Social Security number on the outer envelope — concealed by a so-called privacy flap. For rejected ballots, clerks must send a notification to voters within one day.

The court’s decision was applauded by the office of Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

“Voters in New Mexico should have confidence that their vote will count no matter if they are voting in person or by mail ballot and they should not be deterred by partisan legal maneuvering,” agency spokesman Alex Curtas said. “Partisan lawsuits questioning the integrity of our elections mere days before Nov. 3 only serve to confuse voters and undermine voter confidence.”

In a statement, the Republican Party described the court’s decision as flabbergasting and a “slap in the face.”

“It’s sad that the justices will not take up a lawsuit that’s so critically important to ensure everyone’s ballot is accurately identified and verified,” GOP Chairman Steve Pearce said.

Separately, the Republican Party accused election officials in two counties of failing to properly monitor drop boxes that receive absentee ballots, in a lawsuit filed in state district court.

That complaint alleges that county election officials in Guadalupe County have left drop boxes unattended and without video surveillance in violation of guidance from the secretary of state’s office. The lawsuit says the situation “leaves open myriad potential for election misconduct.”

The Republican Party asked for a court order to “ensure that all drop boxes are continuously monitored and that they are only open and accessible to the public during hours that the polls are open.”

The secretary of state’s office said in a statement Tuesday that it expects county clerks to follow the agency’s security standards and guidance for implementing drop boxes.

The agency has encouraged county clerks’ offices to install ballot drop boxes to help minimize human contact and the risks of coronavirus transmission during the election process while offering financial reimbursements through federal recovery funds.


State’s statement sent to KRQE News 13 on NM Supreme Court’s denial of writ in absentee ballot lawsuit:

The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the legally sound processes and procedures being followed by the state’s election administrators when processing absentee ballots. These laws are in place to protect the identifying information of voters while also ensuring the integrity of the election. Voters in New Mexico should have confidence that their vote will count no matter if they are voting in person or by mail ballot and they should not be deterred by partisan legal maneuvering. Partisan lawsuits questioning the integrity of our elections mere days before November 3rd only serve to confuse voters and undermine voter confidence. We’re thankful the New Mexico Supreme Court quickly denied this petition today so the state’s election administrators can get back to focusing on the vital work of running the 2020 General Election.

Alex Curtas, Communications Director of New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Also releasing a statement, the Republican Party of New Mexico on the Court’s decision:

It’s very disappointing and, in fact, dangerous that the Supreme Court would not address an issue as serious as election integrity. It appears that politics continues to play a role in our courts. It’s sad that the Justices will not take up a lawsuit that’s so critically important to ensure everyone’s ballot is accurately identified and verified. This is not about Democrats or Republicans but about the integrity of our voting process.

Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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