New Mexico election standoff and ‘attack on democracy’ ends
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OTERO COUNTY, N.M. — A standoff ended Friday when a group of defiant local officials in New Mexico gave in to the state and voted to certify their June 7 primary election results, after they had been refusing to do so.
Otero County commissioners said in their emergency meeting Friday afternoon that they felt forced to comply in order to avoid the possibility of jail time or losing their positions.
They said they still believe there are concerns about voting machines and individual votes, concerns which the Secretary of State’s Office said are either false, against the law or need to go through the correct process.
Leading the charge in the rural, southern New Mexico county is one of the commissioners, Couy Griffin, founder of the group Cowboys for Trump.
Griffin faced possible jail time twice Friday regarding election results. On the same day as the vote, a federal judge sentenced him for trespassing at the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection, which was also based around unproven claims surrounding an election.
Griffin will not spend more time in jail for that conviction. A judge gave him time served, $3,000 in fines and one year of supervised release.
The polarizing Republican called into the Otero County meeting because he had to be at his sentencing in D.C. in person, and he was the lone no-vote, standing against certification.
During the time commissioners have been voicing election concerns, multiple state agencies have pushed back against their claims.
The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ordered them to certify the votes by Friday’s deadline, the state Attorney General’s Office said there would be “legal action” if they failed to do so and the New Mexico Secretary of State said many of their arguments were based on misinformation.
Commissioners said their problems involved voting machines, voting processes and some individual votes.
Commissioner Vickie Marquardt cited two concerns that the state later said it can debunk. She said there is “outdated and uncertified software,” which a Secretary of State’s office spokesperson said is false and is misinformation. Secondly, she said there’s evidence votes were cast from “deceased” people and from addresses that don’t exist. The state said the commissioners had the opportunity to ask a board to review those claims, but they did not.
Commissioners have also demanded recounting primary election ballots by hand, removing state-mandated drop boxes for absentee ballots and discontinuing the use of vote tabulation machines.
Moments before the commissioners voted to comply with the state, they repeated their demands and claims, for which they do not have evidence, as Griffin admitted.
“My vote to remain a ‘no’ isn’t based on any evidence. It’s not based on any facts. It’s only based on my gut, and my gut feeling and my own intuition and that’s all I need,” Griffin said. “If this is as far as it goes, it proves how scared they are to talk about auditing.”
Griffin said he’s proud to stand up for their concerns and said it was an overreach for the state to threaten jail time if they didn’t comply.
“We can get fined, we can get imprisoned, we can get removed from office and then the governor replaces our seat,” Marquardt said. “So I feel like we can do the county more good remaining in our seat.”
All three commissioners said they will fight for more authority in the voting process in the future.
VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATES
Many state agencies and election experts have said the resistance is concerning.
Those who advocate for accountability in government, including voters’ rights, said the allegations defy the law and are an “attack on our democracy.”
“I have some concerns about the continued – let’s just call it what it is – the continued lies regarding the Dominion machines and the unsubstantiated claims,” said Mario Jimenez of Common Cause New Mexico. “I’m extremely disappointed that they continue to pedal these lies without any foundation.”
He called the commissioners’ mentality “scary.”
“I think that should not only be a concern for the voters in the county but a concern for voters in the state,” Jimenez said.
A voting rights advocate in D.C. who studies election security is worried about similar pushback in the future.
“All of these attempts to sabotage the process are very concerning. I think we may see more of this,” said Susannah Goodman with Common Cause. “I think we will see challenges to the election results. My hope is that they go through the proper channels.”
University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg doesn’t see the actions in Otero County causing a ripple effect across the country, but he said just the discussion among the commissioners is something that’s never been seen before.
“There’ve been a lot of attacks across the country on Dominion voting machines. All of those lawsuits failed,” he said. “This is something that should have been put to rest a while ago, but it wasn’t, and we’re still dealing with it, but it is tied into the Jan. 6 hearings in that regard.”
Kastenberg said there’s been the possibility for criminal prosecution for these commissioners, but he believes that is unlikely.
Otero County commissioners certify votes ten days after primary elections — 6/17/2022, Chase Golightly
Official in election standoff avoids prison in Capitol riot — 6/17/2022, The Associated Press