The leader of the Republican Party of New Mexico is claiming voting irregularities are cropping up in the southern part of the state.
Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said GOP representatives were not being allowed to watch ballots being certified in Doña Ana County, Republicans were “kicked out of the absentee ballot certification process” there and in Sandoval County, and GOP county canvass observers were not allowed to watch ballots being certified in Valencia County.
County clerks in these areas said Pearce’s claims were false.
They expressed confusion at Pearce’s assertions that Republicans were somehow being shut out of the process and said Republicans have been watching every stage of the process across New Mexico since late October and were still scrutinizing the final stages of ballot certification.
But Pearce was adamant.
“So right now, what’s going on is we’re not being allowed to be in the certification now of provisional ballots. We’ve got three races now hanging in the balance,” Pearce said in an interview Friday.
“In Sandoval County, we’ve been kicked out, not allowed to watch the provisional process,” he continued, adding that “the secretary of state instructed them not to let us be in the process.”
Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni did not immediately return a phone call Friday.
The New Mexico Republican Party filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court in October over alleged absentee ballot issues. The court declined to hear the case, according to Pearce, who also claimed without evidence that votes are appearing “out of thin air” to change the outcomes in favor of many Democratic candidates in New Mexico.
Alex Curtas, a spokesman for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, said the office in no way instructed local clerks to shut out Republicans.
“We told them the exact opposite of whatever Pearce told you,” Curtas said. “It’s like they’re living in the upside down or something.
“If [Pearce] would like to provide some evidence, we’d be happy to look at it,” Curtas added. “These are just specious claims that, to me at least, just seem to show the lack of understanding of the election process.”
In Valencia County, the Republican Party claims its canvass observer, David Gardner, was not allowed to observe ballots being certified Thursday.
But Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal said workers did not begin the final certification of ballots until Friday morning. She added that they waited to let canvass challengers in until the Secretary of State’s Office sent over Gardner’s approved paperwork, as required by law, and that Gardner was there Friday.
Carabajal said Republicans have been observing the county’s entire election process since late October, when the Clerk’s Office began preparing absentee ballots to be counted that arrived before Election Day.
Although the county wasn’t certifying ballots Thursday, party spokesman Mike Curtis nonetheless claimed that “David Gardner was not allowed in yesterday.”
It’s a similar story in Otero County, where Pearce claimed the “clerk just happened to find 50 absentee ballots.”
Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes said the normal election process was being conducted.
“We had 53 absentee ballots that were turned in on Election Day at the polling locations, and on Wednesday we ran 51 through the machine because the other two had to be hand-tallied because they would not run through the machines,” she said, adding that the Clerk’s Office has documentation showing from where and when each of the ballots arrived.
She added that her office has not denied anyone from watching the process, and that “we did not have anyone request being present” when they certified the final 53 absentee ballots.
In Socorro County, where Pearce claimed that at “about midnight, 400 votes just show[ed] up out of thin air,” Socorro County Clerk Betty Saavedra said that’s simply because ballots arriving from the Alamo Navajo Reservation, about an hour away, were driven to the Clerk’s Office later than the other ballots.
“They were one of our last precincts to be reported,” she said, adding that the president of the Socorro County Republican Party “has been with us through the whole process.”
And in Doña Ana County, where Pearce also claimed GOP poll challengers had been ousted, a Republican observer was in fact there as well, watching ballots being certified Friday morning. He was also there Thursday, according to the Clerk’s Office.
“I would just say it’s confusing to hear that argument being made when Republican challengers, watchers and observers have been a part of this election from the very beginning in Doña Ana County,” said Doña Ana County Chief Deputy Clerk Lindsey Bachman.
Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin, who recused herself from administering the election this year because she ran and won reelection, said Pearce is furthering “the narrative of what’s happening on a national level, and it’s very unfortunate that anyone would want to make unfounded accusations ... and really just disrupt and malign the democratic process.”