Home Local News COMMUNITY VOICES Election security and integrity in New Mexico

COMMUNITY VOICES Election security and integrity in New Mexico

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Keith Manes/Lea County Clerk

I have more than 20 years experience conducting elections, and I believe New Mexico has always been a model for other states in the conduct of elections.

The New Mexico Clerks’ Affiliate, made up of all 33 county clerks in New Mexico, with a combined experience of many years, actively promotes the enactment of laws that make elections more efficient, secure, and fair.

These are people who routinely work with voter records, voting procedures, and elections — they are dedicated to conducting secure and accurate elections and to protecting your right to vote, your right to a secret ballot and your right to have your ballot tallied accurately.

Lea County has used Dominion voting machines for more than 10 years without issue — long before the it became a fad to question the accuracy of an election using faulty or incomplete methodology and theory.

Dominion machines are certified by an independent auditor. You can visit the website of the New Mexico Secretary of State to get more information about the certification.

The compact flash cards (CF cards) used in Dominion machines are programmed in my office by my bureau of elections administrator, Carrie Sandoval, who also has more than 20 years of experience with the office and elections.

Once the CF cards have been programmed, my office sends notice to the party chairs of major parties informing them of the date and time of the accuracy testing of the machines, which is also posted on the website. This process has always been open to the public, and we invite anyone to come and observe.

Before an election, each machine is tested for accuracy by running a premarked test deck through each machine. After running the premarked test deck through the machine, the machine is then closed out and the results are compared to make sure the machine tabulated the results correctly.

The CF card is read and the results are uploaded to the Secretary of State as is done on election night. To make sure the machines operate correctly, we do a “mock” election before every election. The CF card is then cleared and sealed in the tabulator to be delivered to the designated polling location.

Before the primary election of June 7, 2022, a premarked test deck of 167 ballots was run on every machine used in the election.

Every polling place has an election board of five members. No more than three members of the election board can be of the same party. The election board verifies the seals on machines match the information about the seals given by the clerk and that the seals have not been broken.

The board then opens the tabulator.

The tabulator prints out a tape indicating that no votes have been cast. This tape shows each candidate or question has received zero votes. Each member of the board verifies and signs the tape verifying the test has been performed.

The Dominion tabulators are never connected to the internet.

Every polling place has two systems, the ballot-on-demand system and the Dominion tabulators. The two systems are never connected to each other.

The ballot-on-demand system is connected to the internet and is used to look up voter registration information and to print the voter’s ballot. Once the voter has completed marking the ballot, the voter inserts the ballot into the Dominion tabulator.

At 7 p.m. on the day of the election, when the polls are closed and the last voter has voted, the election board closes out both systems.

The board is responsible for making sure the systems are in balance. If the ballot-on-demand system indicates 100 ballots were printed, then the Dominion tabulator must also indicate reception of 100 ballots, or the board must explain the discrepancy — such as the spoiling and reprinting of a ballot or the printing of a ballot for a voter who has left the polling place before voting.

Each polling location produces three tapes at the close of the location.

One is sent to the county clerk, another is mailed to the Secretary of State by the presiding judge of the polling location, and the last one is posted on the door of the polling location.

The ballots are secured by the election board in the ballot bin, secured with two different locks. The presiding judge of the polling location mails the key to one lock to the district judge, and the key to the other lock is sent to the county clerk.

This again secures the ballot bin and keeps any one person acting alone from having access to it.

We do not transmit any result by internet on election night from the polling location.

A runner picks up the CF card and the zero tape from each polling location and drives it to the county clerk’s office. When the office receives the CF card and tapes, the CF card is read on a computer that has never been, and is not, connected to the internet.

We print out the results, and they are then posted to our website and sent to the Secretary of State. All results of the election are unofficial until they are canvassed by my office and certified by the board of county commissioners.

Races that have less than a one percent margin of two candidates will automatically be recounted. In the primary election of June 7, 2022, six counties were required to perform a recount of races by hand tally. After the hand-recount in these six counties, the results of the winner did not change, a fact that proves the Dominion tabulators tallied the ballots correctly.

By statute, the Secretary of State after every statewide election must engage an independent auditor who calls for a random hand-tallied recount of results of federal races throughout the state based on the number of votes cast in the election.

What this means is all the precincts will be put in one box and the federal offices in another, from which will be drawn a precinct and an office. The county clerk of the precinct drawn at random will appoint a board to tally by hand ballots for the specified precinct and office.

This practice has been followed in statewide elections for many years.

I hope this information makes you feel better and more informed about checks and balances in the election process. It should also make you feel your vote matters and is handled carefully.

I am always available to meet with anyone who has questions or concerns.

Keith Manes is the Lea County Clerk and is in charge of elections in Lea County.

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