Suppressing the vote is a time-tested strategy deployed by those fearing that the voice of too many people will hamper their oppressive ways. As we begin the final lap of what seems like a presidential election season that has gone on forever, a disinformation campaign is afoot that deserves to be kicked back. New Mexico’s Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has heard more fake news than most, and she has a message to reassure New Mexicans: No one will have to choose between their health and their ability to cast their ballot safely and accurately this November. Good thing, too. As we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which empowered women to vote, it is clear that we need everyone’s voice to begin to address the systemic problems facing this state, as well as the new ones that always seem to crop up.
At the Weekly Alibi, we’ve heard our fair share of fake news about voting in the election, so we went to the source for accurate information about what is actually happening here, New Mexico’s Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and had only one real one question for her:
Weekly Alibi: What are the best ways for New Mexicans to vote safely this year?
Maggie Toulouse Oliver: I want to emphasize over and over again how safe and secure it is to vote by mail. We are contending with the nasty, toxic, partisan rhetoric; and unfortunately, the election process has been dragged into that. Voting by mail is safe and secure, and we have some new bells and whistles for the general election that will allow voters to track their ballots as they're making their way through the postal system. Not only the voter, but the county clerk and the U.S.P.S. We'll all know where the voter’s ballot is at any given time to make sure that that ballot gets to the county clerk and gets counted. If a voter chooses instead to vote in person, our county clerks are also taking just an amazing amount of precautions; following CDC guidelines, hiring a number of folks to make sure that social distancing is occurring at polling locations, that cleaning those locations, sanitizing them, making sure that other voters are wearing their masks and social distancing, so that folks can have a safe and secure voting experience in person. The bottom line being no voter should or will have to choose between their health and their ability to cast their ballot safely and accurately this November.
We followed up this all-important question by putting 13 statements to Secretary Oliver that have been floating around for a while and asked her to give our readers the facts, true or false:
The president can change the date of the presidential election.
No. In fact, the date as to when federal elections occur is set by Congress. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is the current date for federal elections. That was established way back in the 1800s, and through many crises over the years–world wars, pandemics, the Civil War–we've kept elections on that date. I don't see any appetite in Congress to make a change.
Hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes are cast every election.
Completely false. In fact, the data show that the opposite is true. It's extremely rare to see voter fraud occur. Voter fraud is a very high risk, low reward kind of crime because the actual ability to affect an election outcome is really unlikely. If you are caught, you will be charged with a felony and probably see jail time and lose your right to vote.
The purpose of mail-in voting is to allow undocumented immigrants to steal the election.
Obviously, false. Non-citizens of all stripes are, of course, prevented from voting in elections in the United States. Absentee voting has been used for decades by voters here in the state to be able to easily and conveniently vote from home or from wherever they may be. I think it's important to know that our military voters overseas vote by mail every election, especially our active military troops who are often serving in active combat. These folks, more than anybody else, need that ability to vote by mail.
Mail-in voting and absentee voting are totally different.
Absentee voting is voting by mail where you have your ballot mailed to you. I think a lot of the rhetoric out there tries to conflate universal mail-in voting, which is available to voters in some states like Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, and Colorado. No matter whether you apply for your ballot or whether you automatically receive your ballot, you are voting through the mail in both cases.
You can only vote absentee if you have a really good reason.
You don't need any reason. We have what's called no excuse, absentee voting. We've had it for decades. You can just ask to have that ballot mailed to you for any reason you choose.
I need to put stamps on my ballot to make sure it gets back to the county clerk’s office.
In New Mexico, it's one hundred percent postage prepaid, and it's treated as first-class mail. No postage is required.
George Soros owns all the voting machines in New Mexico.
If that were true, we wouldn't have had to go to the legislature over the years to ask them to give us the money to purchase those machines. The State of New Mexico owns every single tabulator in New Mexico.
If you have an outstanding warrant, the police will be notified if you show up to vote and will come to your polling place to arrest you.
That's completely false. In fact, law enforcement officers are not permitted to be anywhere near a polling location unless there is a public safety emergency at that polling location and someone's life is in danger.
If you don’t register to vote you won’t get called for jury duty.
Jury duty is not based on voter registration, strictly. It's also based on whether or not you have a driver's license or pay your taxes. If you are somebody who avoids doing all of those things, not only are you breaking the law, but then perhaps you are getting out of jury duty. If you're doing any one of those things—driving legally, paying taxes or voting—you're just as likely to get selected for jury duty.
Felons can’t vote in New Mexico.
If you are somebody who has been convicted of a felony and you are still trying to complete the term of your sentence, then you are at that point ineligible to vote. Whether you're currently serving your prison time, you're on probation or parole or having to do your community service, etc., then you would not be able to register and vote. However, if you have completed all the terms of your sentence, then you are eligible to register and vote.
If you are homeless, you can’t vote.
Homeless people, just like any other citizens, can register and vote. An individual who is homeless can use either a shelter or wherever they lay their head at night as their residency address for purposes of voting. As long as they can provide a mailing address, which again is usually a homeless services shelter, they can register and vote.
You need to show your driver’s license to vote in New Mexico.
False, except under a couple of specific conditions. If you are currently registered to vote and you have voted before, or registered online, or you registered with another human being, under no circumstances, are you required to show a driver's license. If you've just registered to vote this year, you've never voted before, you got a paper form somehow, you mailed it to your county clerk and you didn't, at that time, provide a copy of your driver's license, then you will be required to show a government-issued photo ID when you do vote. Those are very, very rare circumstances. Most people go online to register. They registered at the MVD. They got registered at a voter registration drive at UNM or something like that. The other minor exception would be if you're a person who waits until after the voter registration deadline to get registered. Our voter registration deadline in New Mexico is Oct. 6. If you show up to your county clerk's office during early voting and you either register for the first time or you want to make an update because you moved, that is a situation in which you would have to show an ID as well.
You can just text in your vote if you don’t want to wait in line.
False. False. False. There is no technology at this point that is completely secure. It's really important for voters to vote on that paper ballot and to either send it to their county clerk or put it into the voting machine when they go vote in person because we'll always have a paper record of that vote to go back to if there's ever a question about whether or not the votes were counted properly. Texting and online voting, these are neat ideas and are things that election administrators are looking at for the future; but until we have a secure and foolproof method of protecting people's votes, we will be voting on paper for the foreseeable future.