Trump campaign files lawsuit over New Mexico election, objecting to ballot drop boxes
ALBUQUERQUE – On the very day that New Mexico electors met in Santa Fe to formally cast New Mexico's electoral votes for president, President Donald Trump's campaign filed a lawsuit over New Mexico's use of drop boxes in the 2020 elections.
The federal lawsuit claims that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver violated the state election code by permitting voters to deposit completed absentee ballots in drop boxes at voting locations rather than handing them to the location's presiding judge in person.
Drop boxes were installed around the state this fall with federal funding from the CARES Act in an effort to reduce numbers of voters congregating at voting locations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican Party of New Mexico sued over the state's use of drop boxes in October, demanding video monitoring for all drop boxes and accusing two county clerks of lax security measures. The party withdrew its complaint after Toulouse Oliver's office reiterated previously issued guidance to county clerks on their use.
While admitting that drop boxes are not part of the election code, the lawsuit argues that the drop boxes should be subject to the same requirements as "secured containers" under the law.
The complaint asks the court to order a delay in certifying New Mexico's electoral vote, which took place Monday, and mandate a statewide canvass of New Mexico's absentee ballots, including investigations into every voting location where a drop box was implemented.
The Trump campaign also seeks to segregate all absentee ballots deposited in drop boxes and for those voters to be contacted to confirm that they, a family member or a caretaker dropped it off personally, and the invalidation of "illegal drop box ballots" or even all the absentee votes cast in a particular county.
The lawsuit repeats a recurring theme of the campaign's dozens of lawsuits challenging election results around the country, none of which have prevailed, in which the campaign argues that insufficient security measures allow ample opportunity for voter fraud, without providing specific instances of alleged fraud as evidence.
A Trump-appointed federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit over drop boxes in that state in October, calling the case "speculative" without evidence of fraud, and remarking, "the job of an unelected federal judge isn't to suggest election improvements, especially when those improvements contradict the reasoned judgment of democratically elected officials."
Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden and vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris won New Mexico's popular vote by nearly 11 percentage points in the Nov. 3 election, securing him the state's five Electoral College votes.
The state canvassing board certified the vote on Nov. 24, when Toulouse Oliver reported that a regular audit of the election results turned up "very minor findings" such as hand counting and voting system errors. More than 40 percent of the 928,230 ballots cast were reported to be absentee ballots.
On Monday. appointed electors met in all U.S. states to formally cast their presidential ballots. In Santa Fe, electors from the state Democratic Party met at the capitol building to cast the state's votes for Biden and Harris.
Alex Curtas, a spokesman for Toulouse Oliver, said the Secretary of State's office had not yet been served with the complaint but said, "This lawsuit appears to be yet another attempt by the outgoing Trump Administration to silence the voices of lawful voters throughout the country."
Curtas argued that when it withdrew its complaint about the drop boxes in October, "the state GOP acknowledged that drop boxes are legal under New Mexico law and that it was absolutely appropriate for the Secretary of State to provide this safe and efficient option for voters to make their voice heard in the 2020 General Election.
"Now, on the same day that New Mexico's electoral votes were cast for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Donald Trump is making a desperate attempt to undermine our lawful election in New Mexico predicated on a misunderstanding of election laws," Curtas said, adding that he expected a "swift dismissal" of the complaint.
Yet the state GOP, in a news release, reiterated its claim that Toulouse Oliver "allowed drop boxes to be used outside precinct boundaries without proper supervision."
“We have questioned these drop boxes and the entire election process where the Secretary of State seems to make up her own rules and allows violations to happen in this past election. To allow these actions to happen stains our election integrity and our very democracy," state GOP chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement.
GOP electors met at the state capitol on Monday as well to cast ballots for Trump in case "as we await a final resolution" of the electoral vote, the party said.
Meanwhile, a petition to impound ballots cast in Bernalillo County, filed by Republican congressional candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes with the backing of the state party, is proceeding in state district court.
Under statute, candidates have a right to impound tally sheets, registration certificates, paper ballots and other documents for review following an election.
Garcia Holmes, who lost a challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland in New Mexico's 1st congressional district on Nov. 3, was granted access by the court on Monday for a team of up to six representatives to inspect hundreds of thousands of ballots cast there.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Read the Trump campaign's federal complaint here: