New Mexico county refuses to certify election results over machine concerns, igniting legal battle

“I have huge concerns with these voting machines,” Otero County Commissioner Vickie Marquardt says.

Published: June 16, 2022 7:15pm

Updated: June 17, 2022 7:37am

A New Mexico county has been ordered by the state Supreme Court to certify its primary election results and threatened with legal action by the state attorney general after the county commissioners refused to do so over concerns about Dominion vote-counting machines.

The three Republican members of the Otero County Commission, in their role as the county canvassing board, decided to not certify the June 7 primary results because of their distrust of the Dominion machines, the Associated Press reported. The commissioners also voted last week to recount the ballots by hand, discontinue using the Dominion machines, and remove ballot drop boxes.

“I have huge concerns with these voting machines,” Otero County Commissioner Vickie Marquardt said Monday. "I really do. I just don't think in my heart that they can't be manipulated."

She added, “When I certify stuff that I don’t know is right, I feel like I’m being dishonest -- because in my heart I don’t know if it is right.”

Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes, also a Republican, said that she is not legally allowed to hand-count the ballots unless a court orders her to do so.

“The election law does not allow me to hand-tally these ballots or to even form a board to do it. I just can’t,” Holmes said. “And I’m going to follow the law.”

Holmes also said that the Dominion ballot-counting machines are tested by county officials in public view and are independently certified in advance.

Couy Griffin, another commissioner, expressed his distrust of the process, saying, “That’s a source that we don’t have any control or influence over.”

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, requested on Tuesday that the state Supreme Court order the commission to certify the election.

In a press release regarding the lawsuit, Toulouse Oliver said, “New Mexico’s 2022 primary election was conducted with the highest standards of election administration by dedicated county clerks and civil servants across our state. The post-election canvassing process is a key component of how we maintain our high levels of election integrity in New Mexico, and the Otero County Commission is flaunting that process by appeasing unfounded conspiracy theories and potentially nullifying the votes of every Otero County voter who participated in the primary.”

On Wednesday, the court ordered the commission to certify the results by the state certification deadline on Friday. In a tweet, Toulouse Oliver praised the court for “granting my office’s request to compel the Otero County Commission to follow their constitutional duties and duty under the election code to certify the results of the 2022 primary election.”

Toulouse Oliver then sent a referral to the state attorney general’s office for a criminal investigation into the commission, citing what she called its dereliction of duty, according to the Alamogordo Daily News. The secretary of state also cited "multiple unlawful actions," including not certifying the primary election and voting to discontinue use of the Dominion machines and the removal of ballot drop boxes, CNN reported.

The commission has scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday regarding a request for approval to certify the election.

A spokesperson for the Democratic attorney general, Hector Balderas, said that the commission “must comply with the rule of law or we will take legal action,” according to the AP.

Commissioner Griffin, co-founder of Cowboys for Trump -- and who is scheduled for sentencing on Friday for illegally entering the U.S. Capitol grounds during the riot on Jan. 6., has argued that he led others in prayer at the Capitol, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Griffin told CNN on Thursday that it was not his intention to certify the election results.

"I'm not planning to move off my position," he said. "Why have a commission if we just get overridden by the court system?"

He said he is "not trying to overturn an election. We want transparency."

"The more they try to fight us and shut us down, the more of a skeptic I will become,” Griffin said.

The commissioners didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.

Dominion Voting Systems said in a statement Wednesday that the commissioners' actions were "yet another example of how lies about Dominion have damaged our company and diminished the public's faith in elections," according to CBS News.

The decision by the commissioners not to certify the election results comes after the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a report earlier this month that detailed nine vulnerabilities in Dominion's Democracy Suite ImageCast X voting system, which is a voting machine, not a tabulation machine.

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