Preliminary results in two races for seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives were so close that by law they must be recounted.
The relative strength of the two major parties in the House remained the same after the midterm elections on Nov. 8, with Democrats and Republicans each losing one seat to the other.
But in both House District 68 on Albuquerque’s Westside and District 68 in the southwest corner of the state, the margin of victory was less than 1%.
In legislative races, an automatic recount is required when the canvas of returns shows that the margin of victory is less than 1% of the total votes cast, according to state law.
The canvas process pretty much begins right after the election happens, said Alex Curtas, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office.
It’s a layered process with multiple groups within the process to maintain accountability and credibility of the results.
The county governments canvas the returns from the voting precincts in their counties, and produce a canvas report. Once they’ve done that, they submit that to the county board of canvas, a role of the county commission.
The canvas boards can start meeting no sooner than six days and no later than 10 days after the conclusion of the election, Curtas said.
The larger counties, Bernalillo and Doña Ana, get more time to produce a canvas report, Curtas said, about 13 days.
The county canvas boards don’t do any certification, Curtas said.
“They are approving the report of the canvas, then all of those reports come to us at the Secretary of State,” Curta said.
The Secretary of State’s Office does a canvas of those canvases, Curtas said, and then the New Mexico Canvas Board will meet on Nov. 29, he said.
That day the state canvas board will certify the results, making the results official.
Then, if there is a need, the state canvas board will order automatic recounts, or any recounts, that need to happen.
“We have to have official results before we can even do a recount, for example, because before we have official results, we don’t know what the actual margin of victory was,” Curtas said.
Immediately after the state canvas board issues those notices of automatic recount, state law requires the county-level canvas boards to order their county clerks to bring together a recount precinct board.
Those recount boards would then recount and re-tally the ballots, and then produce a recount certificate, which would then go to a canvassing board. That canvassing board would then recanvas the results and must follow the recount instead of the original results, which then could result in changing the outcome of the election.
There were 11,254 votes total in District 68 on the Westside of Albuquerque, where the margin between the two candidates was just over one quarter of one percentage point.
Democrat Charlotte Little is a small business owner and former tribal administrator from San Felipe Pueblo. She received 5,642 votes, or 50.13% of the vote.
Her campaign website states “we need leaders in Santa Fe who will stand firm for guaranteed, affordable health care for all New Mexicans.”
Republican Robert Moss is a tax attorney and health care startup investor. He got 5,612 votes, or 49.86% of the vote.
His number one issue is education, according to his campaign website. He is calling to “break apart the Albuquerque Public School district,” and that “local school districts, elected by the community, should be dictating most of their districts’ policies.”
Southwestern New Mexico
There were 7,529 votes total in District 32, which includes parts of Luna, Hidalgo and Doña Ana counties. On election night, the margin of victory between the two candidates was about half of one percentage point.
Republican Jenifer Jones is a registered nurse from Deming. She secured 3,786 votes, or 50.28% of the vote.
During legislative sessions, Jones works in the office of Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte), according to her campaign website.
The website touts her lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association, and shows a photo of her with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. It states that if elected, she would “fight to protect Second Amendment rights in District 32 and all of New Mexico.”
Her grandfather was a Luna County commissioner, and her mother was Luna County Clerk, according to her campaign website.
Democrat Candie Sweetser is a former TV broadcaster from Deming. She picked up 3,743 votes, or 49.71% of the vote.
Her campaign website touts an endorsement from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund. It states Sweetser has “a proven record of fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights.”