Voting and Elections

Rumor vs. Reality

Fact checking misinformation about New Mexico’s voting and elections

Recent years have seen the growth of misinformation about how our voting and elections are run in New Mexico. To address and combat some of the most popular points of this harmful misinformation, we have created the following webpage.

The points addressed below include:

  • What you need to know about the online publication of voter data by the Voter Reference Foundation.
  • Can someone tell who I voted for?
  • Could someone change election results?
  • Are New Mexico’s vote counting machines ever connected to the Internet?
  • How do we protect voter data? Who can access it?
  • Are independent, post-election audits performed in New Mexico to ensure the accuracy of election results?
  • How are voter rolls maintained to ensure election integrity?
  • Can non-citizens vote?
  • Does New Mexico use paper ballots?
  • Are the claims made in the movie “2000 Mules” true?

Publication of voter data by the Voter Reference Foundation – What you need to know.

You may have seen recent news articles about a court ruling that allows New Mexico’s voter rolls to be placed publicly online. Voters have already contacted our office with questions about what this means for their personal voter data. This FAQ is meant to answer some of those questions, but please contact our office if you have further inquiries.

Despite the court ruling, the Secretary of State’s Office will continue to do everything in our power to advocate for the protection of voters’ personal information. If you have questions about your voter information, please contact our Bureau of Elections at 505-827-3600 or by emailing Sos.elections@state.nm.us.

HOW MUCH OF MY PERSONAL VOTER INFORMATION IS NOW ONLINE?

An organization called the Voter Reference Foundation has publicly announced an effort to publish the voter rolls for all fifty states online and, after a recent court ruling that prevented the Secretary of State’s Office from stopping the publication, New Mexico’s voter rolls have been included in that effort.

The website is a searchable database that includes the voter’s full name, residential address, voting precinct number, date of voter registration, political party affiliation, voting history, and year of birth.

Publicly available voter information does not include social security numbers, identifying information about where a voter registered, a voter’s day/month of birth, or a voter’s telephone number (if the phone number was not included by that voter when they registered to vote). It does also not include any information on voters participating in the Secretary of State’s Safe At Home Program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

WILL MY VOTER INFORMATION REMAIN ON THE WEBSITE EVEN IF I CANCEL MY VOTER REGISTRATION?

Yes.

The voter data currently being used by the Voter Reference Foundation is from New Mexico’s voter rolls as they were in April 2021. So, even if you cancel your voter registration now, that snapshot of your information from April 2021 will remain on their website. Should other entities obtain voter data and make that data available on-line, the data will reflect the point in time it was requested by that entity and will not reflect the current status of any one registration.

HOW ARE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SAFE AT HOME CONFIDENTIAL ADDRESS PROGRAM AFFECTED?

The Safe at Home program allows survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, and stalking to receive mail using the Secretary of State’s address as a substitute for their own, while keeping their actual address confidential.

The participant’s confidential address will not appear on any list of registered voters made available to the public. So, the voter data for current Safe at Home participants should not be included in the Voter Reference Foundation’s searchable database.

However, there are certain circumstances where a participant’s information might be included in the Voter Reference Foundation’s database – for example, if a Safe at Home participant did not enroll in the program until after April 2021.

If you are a Safe at Home participant (or a prospective participant) and have questions about these issues, please contact our office at 1-800-477-3632

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Could someone change election results?

We have a variety of safeguards in New Mexico that ensure the accuracy of election results.

Most notably, we conduct mandatory post-election audits after every election (these double-check that all the counts were correct) and use 100% paper ballots in every election (this ensures there’s always physical ballots that can be recounted/examined if need be).

We also conduct pre-election certification of all voting systems/machines.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Are New Mexico’s vote counting machines ever connected to the Internet?

No. New Mexico utilizes air-gapped counting systems, which means that our vote tabulators are prevented by law and process from being joined to a computer network or the Internet.

It has become a popular point of disinformation to suggest that New Mexico’s vote tabulators are compromised because they are connected to the Internet. Our air-gapped counting systems ensure that vote tabulators are never connected to the Internet.

Why is this important? Air-gapping is a best practice in election administration that helps prevent hacking of voter data and/or election results. The physical separation of systems ensured by air-gapping makes it much more difficult for any bad actor to try and penetrate those systems.

Because hackers could try and use other means to manipulate votes, we also have further safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of our votes.

Perhaps the most important one that pairs with air-gapping is our use of paper ballots. Every election in New Mexico uses one-hundred percent paper ballots. Using all paper ballots in every election allows for auditing and verification of automated vote counting systems because there is always a paper trail. That means that even if by some means a nefarious actor was able to penetrate one of our systems, we always have a physical backup of paper ballots that can be referred to in order to achieve the accurate result.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: How do we protect voter data? Who can access it?

The protection of voter data is a top priority for New Mexico’s election administrators. Multiple levels of security safeguards are in place by state and county administrators to ensure voter data is not compromised by malicious actors.

By state law, certain groups can obtain limited publicly-available voter data by filling out a required affidavit and paying a set fee.

Even when this voter data is obtained, however, county clerks or the Secretary of State’s Office cannot provide data that includes voters’ social security numbers, identifying information about where a voter registered, a voter’s day/month of birth, or a voter’s telephone number if prohibited by that voter.

Through this limited publicly-available voter data, it is possible to tell a voter’s party affiliation (or lack thereof) and if that voter voted in a particular election, but a voter’s specific ballot choices always remain secret (even to election administrators).

For more information about New Mexico’s voter data request procedures, visit our website which includes the fee structure and the downloadable request/affidavit form.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Are independent, post-election audits performed in New Mexico to ensure the accuracy of election results?

Yes. There are two main ways the accuracy of election results are ensured here in New Mexico with audits:

  1. Following an election, the election results are canvassed or audited so that accuracy is ensured. Canvassing first happens at the county level where county staff review the results. Then, another canvass is completed by a new team of staff at the Secretary of State’s Office. Finally, the results that have already been reviewed at the county and state level are audited by an independent contractor before they are forwarded to the New Mexico Board of Canvass to be made official.
  2. New Mexico conducts a risk-limiting audit following every statewide election. This process involves randomly selecting races and precincts throughout the state and hand counting the results in those precincts. The hand counted results are then compared to the normal machine counted results to ensure accuracy. Any discrepancies between the results are thoroughly investigated.

The results of every independent post-election audit that’s been conducted in New Mexico since 2004 are downloadable from our website.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: How are voter rolls maintained to ensure election integrity?

One of the main points of misinformation about voting and elections claims that voter rolls are not regularly cleaned and thus the integrity of our elections is questioned. This is a pernicious bit of misinformation that leads people to question the outcomes of our elections, so let’s clear it up.

The voter list maintenance processes and procedures of the Secretary of State’s Office and New Mexico county clerks not only follow all state and federal guidelines to keep our voter rolls clean and up-to-date, but go above and beyond those requirements.

During the voter list maintenance process New Mexico’s election administrators, as required by law, must maintain and update their voter rolls continually — everything from checking obituaries, receiving monthly reports from NM Vital Statistics about deceased individuals, and suspending or reinstating voters based on conviction notices from the Department of Corrections. This is done in conjunction with the proactive, pro-voter measures already in place in New Mexico, such as automated voter registration, all-mail special elections, and online and same day voter registration. All of these systems combine to ensure that voter information is up-to-date in New Mexico, resulting in our state having some of the “cleanest” voter records in the United States.

New Mexico also participates in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). ERIC uses information from motor vehicle departments, Social Security Administration records, and other databases to compare voters across all member states and securely shares this information with member states. We have an ERIC FAQ page on our website.

Additionally, County clerks send frequent election-related material to registered voters at their registration addresses and then use that information to do voter record list maintenance.

Much of the confusion around how voter lists are maintained stems from how people misinterpret data or simple clerical errors. As detailed in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s “Rumor Control” website when debunking the myth that deceased people are casting ballots: “Taken out of context, some voter registration information may appear to suggest suspicious activity, but are actually innocuous clerical errors or the result of intended data practices. For example, election officials in some states use temporary placeholder data for registrants whose birth date or year is not known (e.g., 1/1/1900, which makes such registrants appear to be 120 years old). In other instances, a voting-age child with the same name and address as their deceased parent could be misinterpreted as a deceased voter or lead to clerical errors.” (https://www.cisa.gov/rumorcontrol#rumor21)

Simply put, New Mexico has some of the cleanest voter rolls in the nation and we go above and beyond legal requirements to maintain voter list integrity.

Learn more about how states accurately maintain their voter lists at this helpful website from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Can non-citizens vote?

No. You must be registered in order to vote. Every person who registers to vote in New Mexico must attest that they are a citizen of the U.S. and a resident of New Mexico and must provide voter identification.

For information about voter registration requirements, check out our extensive FAQ page: https://www.sos.state.nm.us/voting-and-elections/voting-faqs/voter-registration/

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Does New Mexico use paper ballots?

Yes. Every election that occurs in New Mexico uses 100% paper ballots. Why is that important? It’s one of the ways we ensure New Mexico has the most secure elections in the nation. It’s a low-tech solution that makes our elections more secure in an age of high-tech threats. Paper ballots allow for auditing and verification of automated vote counting systems and they enable us to recount a single race or an entire election should the need arise.

RUMOR vs. REALITY: Are the claims made about the 2020 election in the movie “2000 Mules” true?

The “2000 Mules” movie aims to cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election by claiming that there was a wide-spread conspiracy to use “mules” or “ballot harvesters” to influence the election’s outcome.

The movie’s claims are false and have been debunked by numerous sources. 

The 2020 election was the “most secure in history,” according to election officials across the country. No evidence of widespread voter fraud was ever proven in any state, though Politifact notes “[w]hile authorities identified isolated cases of voter fraud, these instances were in such small numbers it would not have changed the election’s outcome.”

The movie uses flawed assumptions and faulty data to try to prove its point about the 2020 election.

The Associated Press did a thorough fact check of the misinformation in “2000 Mules” that can be accessed here, but we have also copied some of the main points below. 

CLAIM: At least 2,000 “mules” were paid to illegally collect ballots and deliver them to drop boxes in key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

THE FACTS: True the Vote didn’t prove this. The finding is based on false assumptions about the precision of cellphone tracking data and the reasons that someone might drop off multiple ballots, according to experts.

“Ballot harvesting” is a pejorative term for dropping off completed ballots for people besides yourself. The practice is legal in several states but largely illegal in the states True the Vote focused on, with some exceptions for family, household members and people with disabilities. […]

The group’s claims of a paid ballot harvesting scheme are supported in the film only by one unidentified whistleblower said to be from San Luis, Arizona, who said she saw people picking up what she “assumed” to be payments for ballot collection. The film contains no evidence of such payments in other states in 2020.

Plus, experts say cellphone location data, even at its most advanced, can only reliably track a smartphone within a few meters — not close enough to know whether someone actually dropped off a ballot or just walked or drove nearby. […]

What’s more, ballot drop boxes are often intentionally placed in busy areas, such as college campuses, libraries, government buildings and apartment complexes — increasing the likelihood that innocent citizens got caught in the group’s dragnet, Striegel said.

Similarly, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why someone might be visiting both a nonprofit’s office and one of those busy areas. Delivery drivers, postal workers, cab drivers, poll workers and elected officials all have legitimate reasons to cross paths with numerous drop boxes or nonprofits in a given day. […]

In some states, in an attempt to bolster its claims, True the Vote also highlighted drop box surveillance footage that showed voters depositing multiple ballots into the boxes. However, there was no way to tell whether those voters were the same people as the ones whose cellphones were anonymously tracked.

A video of a voter dropping off a stack of ballots at a drop box is not itself proof of any wrongdoing, since most states have legal exceptions that let people drop off ballots on behalf of family members and household members.

For example, Larry Campbell, a voter in Michigan who was not featured in the film, told The Associated Press he legally dropped off six ballots in a local drop box in 2020 — one for himself, his wife, and his four adult children. And in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office investigated one of the surveillance videos circulated by True the Vote and said it found the man was dropping off ballots for himself and his family.

CLAIM: In Philadelphia alone, True the Vote identified 1,155 “mules” who illegally collected and dropped off ballots for money.

THE FACTS: No, it didn’t. The group hasn’t offered any evidence of any sort of paid ballot harvesting scheme in Philadelphia. And True the Vote did not get surveillance footage of drop boxes in Philadelphia, so the group based this claim solely on cellphone location data, its researcher Gregg Phillips said in March in testimony to Pennsylvania state senators.

CLAIM: If it weren’t for this ballot collection scheme, former President Donald Trump would have had enough votes to win the 2020 election.

THE FACTS: This alleged scheme has not been proven, nor do these researchers have any way of knowing whether any ballots that were collected contained votes for Trump or for Biden.

There’s no evidence a massive ballot harvesting scheme dumped a large amount of votes for one candidate into drop boxes, and if there were, it would likely be caught quickly, according to Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa.

Upcoming Elections

General Election: November 8, 2022

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