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NM candidates reject idea of delaying Election Day

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All three candidates in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District are rejecting an idea floated by President Donald Trump to postpone the November election.

Trump raised the possibility of delaying the upcoming election in a Thursday morning tweet, in which he repeated unfounded claims that a shift toward more mail-in ballot voting will lead to widespread fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely, and safely vote???” Trump tweeted.

States across the country in recent months have worked to expand mail-in ballot voting options as a way for voters to cast ballots while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Trump and many conservatives, however, have been vocal in their opposition to the trend, alleging it will lead to greater election irregularities and fraud.

Five states — Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Washington and Hawaii ­­— conduct elections entirely by mail, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. Other states allow registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot without providing an excuse to receive one.

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U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-NM, a first-term Democrat seeking re-election in the normally Republican-tilting southern New Mexico 2nd Congressional District, noted that a federally scheduled election has never been delayed in American history.

“I join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who believe this year should be no different. New Mexicans deserve to have their voices heard this November, and I am committed to ensuring they can do so safely,” she said in a statement Friday.

The president cannot unilaterally postpone an election. According to the U.S. Constitution, moving the election would require the approval of Congress.

Steve Jones, an independent candidate from Ruidoso in the race, said the pandemic should be used as a change agent to modernize an existing voting system that has its own irregularities, such as antiquated voting methods or instances and uncounted ballots. He also denounced Trump’s suggestion.

“Such comments by Trump feed my concern as his possible authoritarian excesses,” Jones said.

Even among Republicans, the suggestion received a cool reception.

Yvette Herrell, the Republican nominee in the race and a stalwart backer of Trump, said she shared some of Trump’s concerns about elections conducted by mail.

She cites a July 27 Associated Press story about the June New York primary, which experienced a dramatic increase of ballots cast by mail, which have caused votes to be tabulated at a slower pace. As a result, a month later a winner has not been declared in many of those primary contests.

Nonetheless, Herrell said, she thinks the election should move forward as planned.

“I am confident that our country can rise to this occasion and conduct a fair, secure and timely election on Nov. 3,” she said in a statement Friday.

Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor and the director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy and the director of the Institute of Social Research at the University of New Mexico, called the comment by Trump little more than a distraction.

“He likes stirring up the pot, which he was very successful at. No one else wants to delay the election, including GOP candidates and leaders,” Atkeson said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.