ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Legislators in Washington, D.C. point to New Mexico as an example of how election misinformation and disinformation can spread. A recent report by the U.S. House of Representatives’ main investigative committee points to Otero County, New Mexico as a case study in “fraudulent audits.”

“The Committee investigated two such audits: in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Otero County, New Mexico,” the report notes. “In both cases certain Republican elected officials inspired by falsehoods about voter fraud ignored the advice of election professionals and hired unaccredited companies run by conspiracy theorists to investigate their voting systems.”

The report, by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, says that election-related misinformation and lies — even if spread accidentally — “endanger both the democratic system and the people who administer our elections.”

The threat of misinformation has been on the rise and has “increased dramatically” over the last two year, the report notes. Formerly, election officials tended to worry about foreign actors influencing American elections. But now, internal conflict that spreads mistrust in elections is the main concern, according to the committee.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform began investigating a “concerning ‘audit’ and canvass of voters” in Otero County. That Otero County audit, which the congressional committee deems not a real audit, was conducted by New Mexico Audit Force, a group connected to David Clements — an individual the House Committee calls a “conspiracy theorist.”

Clements and New Mexico Audit Force allegedly reviewed Otero County’s 2020 election results before declaring that they had discovered “ghost votes” (i.e. votes cast using false names) and a range of other problems with the 2020 election.

The New Mexico Secretary of State, the elected official broadly charged with ensuring election security in New Mexico, has previously called the Otero County audit a “political stunt orchestrated to perpetuate the Big Lie” — that’s the term some have used to describe former President Donald Trump’s insistence that he didn’t lose the 2020 presidential election.

Alex Curtas, the communications director for the New Mexico Secretary of State, says that although the Otero events happened back in 2020, they offer an important lesson for upcoming elections. And he says the point in discussing the Otero events isn’t to attack Republicans, it’s to make New Mexico’s elections better for everyone.

“I think that it is valuable to use it as a lesson, you know, for election administration going forward,” Curtas told KRQE News 13. “There are plenty of Republicans who are concerned with making our elections better, but who come at it from a good-faith perspective.”

And while there’s no way to fully separate the topic of elections from partisanship, Curtas says the fundamentals of security and election access are non-partisan. And that they should stay that way to benefit voters from all parties.

“These are not partisan issues,” he says. “For people who might look at this and just say, ‘Oh, it’s just written by a bunch of Democrats and I’m never going to believe what they say,’ Well, okay. Then go talk to your Republican county clerk, and see what they have to say about the safeguards that are in place to protect our votes.”

With the upcoming local elections this November, Curtas says he’s hopeful that what’s happened in Otero will get people engaged in the election process. He calls that the “silver lining.”

“I’m hoping that, at least partially, that so much of the attention that has been on voting and elections in recent years will translate to — at the very least — people being more involved and engaged in voting,” he says. “I would encourage people to contact their counties and then become workers for the general election. Not only can you get paid to do that, so it can be a little extra cash in your pocket, but it is literally the best way to learn about election processes.”