As voters head to the polls this November, an issue they take with them is the sanctity and security of the electoral process. A Pew Research Center study found that 58% of Democrats and Republicans are concerned about the current election procedures and policies throughout the country. The study also found that 70% of them were concerned for the future of democracy.
Cory Sukala, a professor in the Department of Government at NMSU and former director of elections for the state of Pennsylvania, explained why this issue has been trending with voters, especially this time around.
“A lot of it goes back to sort of long societal trends related to trust. If we look at the standing of trust in society over the last 50 years, it’s been decaying steadily. So that’s sort of the underlying story of everything,” Sukala said. “With that we’ve seen the rise of conspiracy theories, along with the internet. The internet has just made it a lot easier to spread this sort of misinformation.”
Sukala says the rise of conspiracy theories and misinformation online has contributed to a greater sense of polarization, where claims about election security become common messages within all political spectrums. He also mentioned there are some valid concerns surrounding election security, but only those related to technological mishaps which are “likely to happen from time to time.”
“Anytime you’re dealing with electronics you need to have some sort of concern for what can happen to those electronics. Prior to 2020 … [technology] was more or less a bipartisan concern,” Sukala said.
Since the 2020 presidential election, there have been calls for refining the voting process and improving the way ballots are cast and reported. These calls have resulted in new legislation being implemented in some states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, where restrictions on mail-in ballots and voter registration have been implemented.
Democrats say these restrictions are detrimental to the sanctity of free and fair elections and that this type of legislation only limits individuals from exercising their rights. Republicans argue that there has to be more accountability and transparency in the voting process.
Audrey Trujillo, a Republican candidate running for New Mexico Secretary of State, explained in a recent interview with KRWG why voters are concerned over the current handling of the secretary of state’s office.
“I’m also hearing a lot of our people just not having confidence in our elections. I think that’s something that we need to really be concerned about. When they start having concerns about our elections, they stop going out and voting, and that is a huge concern for anybody in a state, especially in New Mexico,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo, an outspoken conspiracy theorist who has publicly questioned the 2020 presidential election results, added that election integrity and transparency are key issues on the ballot which is why she is in the race.
“I believe that there are a lot of questions on things that have surfaced. We have a lot of questions in our voter rolls. Our voter rolls are very dirty, and the procedures to clean those rolls have made it pretty much difficult for these county clerks to clean their rolls. So we gotta make sure to figure out a way to simplify that process,” she said.
Democrats are less concerned about election fraud and more concerned that election results may be challenged and contested without any reasonable explanation, as seen during the 2020 presidential election. Some of these concerns surfaced here in New Mexico last June when governing officials in Otero County refused to certify local election results. The New Mexico State Supreme Court ultimately forced Otero County commissioners to certify the election in a writ of mandamus.
“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,” said Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver in a June 2022 press statement.
Despite concerns about the electoral process from both parties, Sukala argues the process is safe, especially going into the Nov. 8 election.
“Overall, I think that elections are safe and secure … there’s going to be fraud — someone’s always going to try to cheat — but I don’t think we have a situation where some sort of group is stealing elections,” Sukala said.
The New Mexico secretary of state’s website includes a section called Rumor vs. Reality, a new resource for New Mexico voters. This feature provides assistance to voters by addressing key concerns and misinformation surrounding statewide elections. It also identifies current election procedures in New Mexico.
All voters are encouraged to consult votesmart.org in order to research candidates’ biographies, voting records, policy positions, ratings, speeches and funding. Votesmart.org is a nonpartisan organization. Its stated mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to all Americans.”