Voting and Elections

Election Challengers, Watchers & Observers Information

New Mexico law permits properly designated individuals to serve as challengers and watchers during early voting and on Election Day. Being a challenger or watcher gives the individual access to a specified early voting center or polling place to observe voting activities.

If you are interested in either designating individuals to serve as challengers or watchers or would like to serve as one, please read Hanbook for Challengers. This manual provides information on who can designate challengers and watchers, the rights of challengers and watchers, and other election observation opportunities.

New Mexico law does not allow for individuals to be self-appointed watchers at a polling location.  Individuals that do not have the proper authorization or credentials to be present at a polling place, other than to vote, will be asked to leave.  There are penalties for disruption, intimidation, or coercion of voters in the polling place.

What are the qualifications and restrictions of being an Election Challenger, Watcher, or Observer?

Challengers and watchers shall be voters of a precinct located in that county to which they are appointed NMSA 1978, 1-2-22

  • You cannot be appointed if you are:
    • A candidate;
    • A spouse, parent, child brother or sister of any candidate;
    • Other relationships that cause a perception problem
    • Married to a parents, child, brother or sister of any candidate;
    • The candidate’s in-laws; or
    • A local or state police officer

How can I become an Election Watcher?

An election-related organization may appoint watchers in a county if the organization provides a written notice to the Secretary of State at least ten days prior to the election date and specifies the names of the qualified appointees; see Registration of Election-Related Organizations and Election Observers.

  • The Secretary of State shall notify the County Clerk of the qualified appointees at least five days before the election.

Any group of three candidates for elected office may appoint watchers in a county if the candidates provide a written notice to the Secretary of State at least ten days prior to the election date and specify the names of the qualified appointees.

  • The Secretary of State shall notify the County Clerk of the qualified appointees at least five days before the election.

How can I become a Challenger?

  • The County Chair of each political party represented on the ballot may appoint in writing challengers for each polling location. If more than one challenger is appointed to a polling location, the challenger shall be listed in ranking order.
  • If any County Chair fails to make such appointments, the precinct chair of the political party may appoint in writing one challenger for the polling location corresponding to the precinct.

What is an Election Observer?

As used in the Election Code, “election observer” means a person registered with the United States department of state as an international election observer or a person registered with the New Mexico secretary of state who is an academic engaged in research on elections and the election process.   Please use the following registration form to request the appointment of Election Observers.  The completed form must be provided to the Secretary of State’s Office no later than 10 days prior to Election Day.

What are my rights as an Election Challenger, Watcher or Observer on Election Day?

  • Challengers and watchers should be respectful of the responsibilities of the poll official.
  • As an accredited challenger and watcher, you have certain rights, and poll officials are required to protect you when you are exercising these rights.
  • The requirement that the presiding judges protect your rights, however, is not absolute. A presiding judge may remove you if you are exercising your rights in a manner that interferes with the voting process or the work of the poll officials in conducting the election and carrying out their assigned tasks.

As a Challenger, Watcher or Observer, do I need to wear an Identification Badge?

  • Yes, you must wear uniform identification badges designating you as authorized challengers of the political party which you represent at all times while present in the polling place.
  • You may not wear any other form of identification, party or candidate pins.
  • You must have your own authorization from New Mexico Secretary of State

What am I permitted to do as a Challenger?

  • Challengers, upon presentation of the written appointment to the precinct board, shall be permitted to be present at any time from the time the precinct board convenes at the polling place until the completion of the precinct board’s duties after the polls close.
  • Challengers, for the purpose of interposing challenges, may:
  • view the signature roster or precinct voter list for the purpose of determining whether the challenger desires to interpose a challenge when a signature roster or precinct voter list is used;
  • view the application to vote form before the voter receives a ballot for the purpose of determining whether the challenger desires to interpose a challenge when an application to vote is used;
  • view the signature roster or checklist of voters to determine whether entries are being made in accordance with the Election Code;
  • prior to voting, view each voting machine before the polls are opened to ensure that the public counter is at zero, that the results tape contains no votes and that there are no voted ballots in the voting machine bins; and
  • make in any polling place and preserve for future reference written memoranda of any action or omission on the part of any member of the precinct board.

What am I permitted to do as a Watcher?

  • be present at any time from the time the precinct board convenes at the polling place until the completion of the precinct board’s duties after the polls close;
  • be permitted to observe that the election is being conducted in accordance with the Election Code;
  • view the precinct voter list to ascertain whether a voter has voted, subject to the same prohibitions and restrictions as are placed upon challengers by the Election Code;
  • view any voting machine being used in the precinct in the same manner that challengers may examine the voting machines; and
  • make in any polling place and preserve for future reference written memoranda of any action or omission on the part of any member of the precinct board charged with the performance of a duty by the Election Code.
  • a watcher appointed on behalf of candidates may be present only in polling locations within the county of appointment at which ballots are cast for at least one of the candidates making the appointment.

What is considered inappropriate conduct for Election Challengers, Watchers and Observers?

Election Challengers, Watchers and Observers shall:

  • not be permitted to perform any duty of a precinct board member;
  • not handle the ballots, signature rosters, checklist of voters or voting machines or take any part in the counting or tallying of the ballots or the county canvass;
  • not be allowed to view a voter’s full date of birth or any portion of the voter’s social security number;
  • not interfere with the orderly conduct of the election, the counting or tallying of the ballots or the county canvass;
  • be allowed in the room in which the voting is being conducted at a polling location, provided that at any given time each political party, candidate or election-related organization may have no more than one person present; and
  • Pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 1-20-20, individuals shall not disturb the polling place.
    • Disturbing the polling place consists of creating any disorder or disruption at the polling place on Election Day, or consists of interfering with in any manner the conduct of the election or with a member of the precinct board, voter, challenger or watcher, in the performance of his duties. Whoever disturbs the polling place is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
  • Pursuant to NMSA 1974, Section 1-20-17, individuals shall not obstruct the polling place.
    • Any person other than the voter, a member of the precinct board, a lawfully appointed challenger or watcher, an election observer, an election official having business in the polling place or a person authorized by the Election Code, approaching nearer than 50 feet from the door through which voters may enter to vote or willfully blocking the entrance to the polling place as to prevent free ingress and egress is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

 How do I report inappropriate conduct or disruptions occurring at a polling location?

Individuals who witness voter intimidation or who are victims of voter intimidation may report the incident to the Secretary of State’s Office, their County Clerk’s Office and County District Attorney.

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office is charged with investigating complaints related to elections and ethics under New Mexico law. If you believe your complaint falls under the authority of our office, please submit your complaint, in writing, to our office, on the Complaint Form. Our office accepts complaints in both original and electronic form, but we do prefer e-mail. We do not process or investigate anonymous complaints.

Upcoming Elections

  • 2019 Regular Local Elections - November 5, 2019
  • 2020 Municipal Officer Elections - March 3, 2020
  • 2020 Primary Election - June 2, 2020
  • 2020 General Election - November 3, 2020

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