New Mexico prosecutor says Republican county must certify vote

New Mexico prosecutor says Republican county must certify vote

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A standoff between a Republican-dominated county commission and New Mexico’s Democratic secretary of state over the commission’s refusal to certify election results, prompted by a conspiracy, escalated Thursday with a threat from the state’s top prosecutor.

The confrontation occurred on the eve of the deadline to certify the results of the primaries on June 7. It also provided a stark example of the chaos that election experts have warned about, as those promoting the lie that former President Donald Trump was duped into getting re-elected seek to populate local election offices and the generally low-key boards that certify voters. results.

The Otero County government commission declined to certify local results from the state’s primary due to unspecified concerns with the team, though it has not identified problems with the Dominion systems used by the county to count ballots.

New Mexico’s top prosecutor told the commission to follow a state Supreme Court order to certify the results. A spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas said the Otero County commission in southern New Mexico “must abide by the rule of law or we will take legal action.”

The secretary of state’s office had asked the attorney general to investigate the commission for possible violations of state election and government ethics laws, which can be serious crimes if the action is deliberate and results in removal from office.

At least one of the three county commissioners was unfazed. Commissioner Couy Griffin told CNN that he did not plan to vote for certification.

“Why have a commission if the court system just overrules us?” he said.

It was not immediately clear what would happen if the county refuses to certify its results, a typically ministerial duty but one that has drawn attention since Trump tried to pressure some certification boards after the 2020 presidential election.

The events in New Mexico can be attributed to far-right conspiracy theories about voting machines that have spread across the country in the last two years. Several Trump allies have claimed that Dominion’s voting systems had been rigged in some way as part of an elaborate scheme to steal the election, which President Joe Biden won.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting equipment that could have affected the outcome of the 2020 election.

Dominion has filed several defamation lawsuits, including against Fox News, and in a statement earlier this week said the Otero County commissioners’ action was “yet another example of how lies about Dominion have hurt our company and The public’s faith in elections has diminished.

Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes, a Republican in her fourth term as the county’s top election administrator, told The Associated Press the June 7 primary went off without a hitch. Automatic counts at 16 vote centers matched the number of ballots that were turned in.

“The primary went off without a hitch,” he said. “It was a great choice.”

Trump won nearly 62% of the 2020 vote in Otero County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 2-1. A Democrat has not won a county commission seat since 1994.

Challenging the federal government and its oversight of public lands are staples of politics in largely rural Otero County, which covers an area three times the size of Delaware and includes a portion of the White Sands Missile Range, site of the first atomic bomb test.

The issue will come to a head on Friday, when New Mexico counties face a midnight deadline to certify their election results.

So far, all but six of New Mexico’s 33 counties have certified their results, and no other county officials have publicly said they intend to vote against certification.

In politically conservative Torrance County, commissioners scheduled Friday discussions on “election integrity” and the potential for litigation, along with their vote on whether to certify primary election results.

Otero County Prosecutor Roy Nichols said the commission has scheduled an emergency meeting before the deadline. He said that he could not speak for the commissioners and that it is not clear if they will vote to certify the results. Two of the three commissioners must vote in favor of certification.

That’s potentially important because it’s unclear if Griffin will be in New Mexico for Friday’s meeting. He is also scheduled to be sentenced in US District Court in Washington, DC, after being found guilty of entering the restricted grounds of the US Capitol, though not the building, during the insurrection of January 6.

State election officials informed the trial judge of Griffin’s refusal to certify the results of the New Mexico primary election.

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Bryan reported from Albuquerque. Associated Press reporters Christina Almeida Cassidy in Atlanta; Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada; and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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