Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Survey finds faith in elections faltering in New Mexico | Legislature | New Mexico Legislative Session

According to a new report, a narrow majority of New Mexico voters have confidence in statewide election processes and results.

But voters in the state were more skeptical about the statewide election process. Just 41 percent of those polled after the 2020 general election said they were confident about the results of this year’s presidential race between Democratic nominee Joe Biden — who won by 10.8 percentage points in New Mexico and 4.4 points nationally — and Republican Donald Trump .

Even more troubling, the report says, 70 percent of voters surveyed said it was possible that someone — a political group, a union, an employer — could find out who they voted for.

The University of New Mexico Department of Politics prepared the report in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of State. The 2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report, released Wednesday, portrays a state electorate largely satisfied with how the election process is being handled.

Still, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver noted in a virtual news conference on Wednesday that the poll shows distrust of the results of the 2020 presidential election remains. There is “a lot of false rhetoric” across the country that has led to a lack of trust, she said, adding, “We don’t necessarily have that trust in other places.”

Toulouse Oliver said the election report – UNM’s eighth – allows her office to “review and evaluate the performance of the New Mexico election and identify what is working well and what needs improvement.”

The report is based on polls of approximately 4,500 voters from across the state. They were asked about their 2020 electoral experiences, how they voted, the types of interactions they had with poll workers, and how they felt about voter fraud, reform, and voter identification requirements.

Oliver and Lonna Atkeson, a former UNM professor of political science who co-authored the report, said at the press conference the results showed that most people who took part in the poll had had a positive voting experience.

A majority of respondents said poll workers were helpful, wait times were relatively short — an average of 20 minutes during early voting hours and shorter for those voting on Election Day — and the voting process by mail or in person was not challenging. Voters said the polling stations are easy to find and not too far away, and parking is not a problem, the report said.

About 35 percent of New Mexico voters cast their ballots by mail in 2020, a 25 percent increase from 2018.

While absentee voting is growing in popularity, Atkeson said, that doesn’t mean they would prefer it as the only option.

“Do people support postal voting? Yes,” Atkeson said. “Do people want an election that’s just post – that’s their only choice? No. That’s an important difference. People are fine with voting by mail, but they don’t think it’s the only way to vote.”

Atkeson said the positive poll results show state election officials can boost voter confidence by ensuring the polls are easily accessible and navigable.

“In a state where we are often not in the top 10 [in national reports]”Elections are a place where I would say we really excel because our election officials across the state are committed to and improving the process,” Atkeson said.

Toulouse Oliver said she was concerned by the 70 per cent of voters who thought someone could access their ballots – as well as the 37 per cent who said elected officials could find out how they voted.

“Many voters don’t understand that their vote is secret,” said Toulouse Oliver. “And no one, not even election officials, can see who you voted for. This is an issue that we need to conscientiously address.”

Alex Curtas, a spokesman for Toulouse Oliver, said officials at the agency were “shocked” by these statistics. The agency needs to conduct more public education campaigns to explain how the voting process works to protect voter confidentiality in the election, he added.

The report comes just a day after lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 8, the New Mexico Voting Rights Act, which aims to increase voter turnout and access to elections through a variety of measures. This is a high priority for both Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Toulouse Oliver during the current legislature.

The bill would create a permanent absentee voter list, make Election Day a state holiday, allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections, and allow residents who do not have state-issued ID cards to register to vote online through their Social security register number.

Regarding voter identification requirements, 77 percent of those surveyed for the UNM report said they believe voters should show some form of photo ID when voting. The most similar idea is to use the last four digits of a social security number as identification.

The study says Republicans have consistently favored voter identification legislation. The number of Democrats who support such legislation increased from 48 percent in 2018 to 61 percent in 2020, according to the report.

According to the report, 60 percent of respondents prefer electing a president on the basis of a popular vote rather than the electoral college.

Curtas said the secretary of state’s office used about $50,000 from the Help America Vote Act to pay for the study.

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