Secretary of state faces challenger in reelection bid, continues fight against misinformation
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Early voting is underway in New Mexico for the Nov. 8 election, and election integrity and security is still a topic of conversation locally and around the country – as the race for New Mexico’s top elections official is also on the ballot.
KOB 4 spoke with the major party candidates for secretary of state on Wednesday.
Incumbent Democrat State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Republican challenger Audrey Trujillo both agree voting security is important, but they disagree on how well it’s been going.
Sec. Toulouse Oliver has pushed back on all such claims.
“I feel my job is to defend our process, to defend our democracy, to fight back against mis and disinformation and most importantly to spread the facts and the truth about how our elections actually work in order to counteract those lies and that mis and disinformation,” she said.
Oliver said she wants to simply be a cheerleader for democracy, but recent events have added to her duties.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” she said. “For the last couple of years especially I feel I have been on the front lines defending our democracy and trying to protect it from attempts to, quite frankly, break it down and turn it into something else.”
Trujillo, a small business owner, said she’s not an election denier, but she does raise many questions about security in New Mexico.
“What I’ve seen out there in 33 counties, and what the people are telling me, is the confidence level has gone down. They do not fully trust the system in place or the people who are administering the system,” she said.
Trujillo said she questions how then-President Donald Trump could have lost in 2020, and she calls some aspects of elections in New Mexico “corrupt,” but she did not say she outright disputes election results.
“I question the system in place. I think it needs to be a little more transparent,” Trujillo said.
She said she also believes the reports that show voter fraud is extremely rare lack transparency.
“I think there is a lot of evidence out there that we can look at that the elections have not been as secure as we would like them,” she said.
The Secretary of State’s Office asserts the process is transparent and has said claims of recent voter fraud are false.
Two of the specific changes Trujillo said she’d push for would be clearing New Mexico voter rolls and starting over and limiting absentee voting to only people who physically cannot vote in-person.
In a KOB 4 SurveryUSA poll last month, 84% of people said they are somewhat or very confident in the state’s election integrity this year, leaving more than 15% of people in the survey saying they are not confident.
KOB 4 went to the South Valley Wednesday to speak with voters.
“I don’t feel like people are out there to cast votes that they shouldn’t,” Christina Rahman said.
“I feel the way things have been run with the elections, with voting, it’s been a lot more transparent, a lot smoother,” David Duhigg said.
Skepticism has surfaced in many ways since 2020. Rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 of last year. Some New Mexico Republicans submitted what they called “alternate electors,” attempting to declare former President Donald Trump the winner in New Mexico.
And in June of this year, Otero County Commissioners initially refused to certify the results of the recent primary election, saying they had concerns with voting machines.
Sec. Toulouse Oliver said she’ll defend allegations that are not accompanied by evidence from her opponent or from anyone else.
“It just demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the election process,” she said.
Oliver said early voting is going smoothly through the first two days, and she is concerned there will be more allegations next month after Election Day.
Anyone with questions on how, when or where they can vote can visit NMvote.org.
On Thursday, state officials are set to give information on poll monitoring and voter intimidation. Sec. Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas are expected to talk about state and federal laws.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol is scheduled to hold another hearing. Reports say members are expected to show new testimony and new evidence.