The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the New Mexico Supreme Court that aims to block an effort by more than two dozen county clerks to conduct the June primary election by mail.

The lawsuit contends a mail-in primary election offers no ballot security and could lead to voter fraud.

“You cannot monitor votes in such a mail-in ballot election,” New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “Many states that use this process can scan ballots for security, but New Mexico doesn’t have that technology.”

The lawsuit comes a day after 27 New Mexico county clerks petitioned the state Supreme Court for an order to conduct the June 2 primary by mail to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further.

The clerks said it would be impossible to carry out a normal election during the pandemic and that to do so would “violate their oath of office in order to protect the health and safety of their community.”

“This court is the last resort to both conduct a lawful election and preserve the public health,” the petition said.

But GOP leaders said the clerks’ petition, which would halt in-person voting altogether, bypasses the Legislature by asking the court to create a “new law” regarding elections.

“This is not a partisan issue but an election law issue,” said state Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales. “We cannot have the integrity of New Mexico’s elections tainted or stolen because of lack of security in the mail ballot process.”

State House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said in a statement: “Unfortunately there has not been a major effort by the Secretary of State to clean up the voter rolls in some time, and this deceptive effort will lead to voter fraud just as it has in other states.”

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the state’s chief election officer, said she supports a mail-in election “to protect the health and safety of every voter wishing to participate.”

She said the petition would not create a new law, noting the state election code already requires special elections to be conducted by mail.

If the court grants the clerks’ request, an absentee ballot would be mailed to every eligible voter in the state in the coming weeks. Notification postcards also would be sent to voters alerting them of the change in the election process.

In-person “voter service centers” would still be available for those who require assistance because of a disability or language barrier.

In the meantime, any New Mexico voter can request and receive an absentee ballot and be able to vote by mail without a reason. Residents can request a ballot through May 28 through the voter information portal on the Secretary of State’s Office website, elections/voter-information/.

Toulouse Oliver has been encouraging voters to use this option to ensure they can cast their primary election ballots safely during the public health crisis.

Unless the Supreme Court orders otherwise, ballots can be returned by mail or dropped off at a county clerk’s office.

They also can be dropped off at an alternative voting site or regular primary Election Day polling location until 7 p.m. June 2.

(6) comments

Jim Plewa

Why doesn't the GOP ever worry about real issues?

Victoria Murphy

This lawsuit is ridiculous! We recently filed for our absentee ballot and you need your Driver's license number, your Social Security number, your Birth Date, and then up pops your name and address for verification. This lawsuit is thereby stating that the information that Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration have incorrect information. Another frivolous lawsuit by the GOP.

Nancy Peden

So agree and why are we not questioning the waste of time & money on the facetious lawsuit? As the head of voting says there are provisions in place already. I found when I returned to NM 3 years ago this whole process for absentee a pain, that we have to sign up each time. This does NOT encourage vote by mail. I support automatic ballot mailing as I experienced in CA. Lack of big scanners has not been a problem in the past so why now? As usual, GOP creating chaos. I hope the lawsuit gets thrown out quickly.

Stefanie Beninato

It sounds like the same old tired playbook the GOP always use. Voters illegally on the rolls etc. And BTW in case the GOP was not paying attention--we are already using mailed in ballots--you know absentee ballots.

Just another example of how the GOP whether on the national or state level do NOT care about people--only power.

Alan Courtney

totally agree

David Ford

Yes Stefanie, however, the "people" include the GOP base who consistently and totally unexplainable, vote and rally against their own interests, and ultimately the country's interests.

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