Chaves County Clerk Cindy Fuller said that she has been assured voting machines used by the county and state are meeting federal standards and “is OK” with the certification processes that have occurred with them.
Her remarks were made Friday after some local residents urged Chaves County commissioners during a Thursday meeting to address their concerns about the machines and consider hand-counting ballots for the 2022 general election.
“I am excited that people are getting involved in elections. I believe that the elections belong to the people. It is nice to see them caring about the process and wanting to learn more about it,” she said. “I don't think that election integrity is a partisan issue. I think everyone from every party should be concerned about that.”
She said she has been working with the people who spoke since she took office in January 2020 and has been “incredibly transparent with them.” She also said they need to understand that county clerks are bound by state election law and that people wanting change have to understand the process.
She also said that she believes the 2020 election results for Chaves County are accurate.
"My opinion is that I have not seen anything that would suggest that the results are not accurate, and until I see evidence of something wrong I will consider them to be accurate," Fuller said. "Of course, I can only speak about Chaves County and what we do here."
Fuller added that she has done her own research about the certification of the Dominion Voting Systems 5.4 machines in use by county clerks as required by state election officials.
She explained that she has spoken with people with the independent U.S. Election Assistance Commission, formed in 2002, who provided her with a report showing that the Dominion machines in New Mexico were accredited by an independent federal lab in 2017 and 2021 and were determined to meet the current 1.0 voluntary standards. The 2.0 standards will not take effect until 2023.
According to Fuller, that independent lab testing is what complies with state law regarding required machine certification.
“If people have questions, they need to come to the office and call. I would be happy to speak to anyone about these issues,” she said. “I am glad that people are getting involved, and I just want the correct information to be out there.”
She also said that the EAC report is available at her office for people to read.
Fuller and her office received support and praise from speakers, people in the audience who joined them and the commissioners. But the speakers raised doubts about the machines.
“We have a problem with the machines. We do not have a problem with our county clerk or with you guys," Bonnie Brainerd said. "We have a problem with these machines, and they need to be done away with like Otero County did. We need to stand with Otero County."
The Otero County Board of Commissioners initially refused to certify the 2022 primary elections until ordered to do so in June by the New Mexico Supreme Court. The commission voted in August to conduct hand-counts for the general election.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, referring to a national news program in which hackers said voting machine vulnerabilities have never been found to result in skewed election results, said Thursday, "No credible shred of evidence has ever shown the 2020 election was somehow 'stolen,' or that votes were changed or machines were hacked. It's misinformation, not voting machines, that pose the biggest threat to our elections."
Some people addressing commissioners said they believe what they observed while serving as poll workers in recent elections indicate that the Dominion machines can result in inaccurate counts.
Kathy Crosby said that she learned as a poll worker that the machines can fill out ballots for the sight-impaired, with the ballots produced indistinguishable from those filled out by people. She wondered if the machines could be filling out items on ballots left unmarked by voters.
“Is this a smoking gun? Does it say something is wrong? No, but until we prove it, the people are not going to trust it,” Crosby said. “So we have to prove that these machines can be trusted, and that hasn't been done.”
Fuller countered Crosby's conclusions. She said that the machines do not fill out ballots on their own, that voters using the accessible-voting option have to complete ballots using the machine screen or a hand-held device. She also said voters have to verify their choices before and after the machine produces the ballots and before they are tabulated. She added that poll workers have to instruct the machines to leave their normal operating processes and enter the accessible-voting option.
Some speakers said that many voters will decide not to participate in the Nov. 8 general election unless hand-counts are done.
“I would propose that you pass a resolution that states that, because we have no machines in the county of Roswell, I mean the county of Chaves, that have been certified, that a hand-count of any votes will be considered the method to certify the 2022 election,” said Dr. Susan Neldon.
Fuller said the machines do not have to be certified by the EAC. But they have been certified by state officials to meet the EAC voluntary standards, which Fuller said is what is required by the state election law.
The five commissioners had various reactions to the speakers' comments.
Jeff Bilberry told the speakers that he "agreed with what you are talking about," while T. Calder Ezzell Jr. said he concurred that the New Mexico Secretary of State should have been ordered by the state Supreme Court to certify the machines prior to statewide elections.
“We are — us here — slaves to the election code,” he said. "The election code provides a process and you saw it play out in Otero County. Did they technically have the right to refuse to certify? I think they did. Did they have the right to deny, to disobey, the order of the Supreme Court? They did not. So there is your Catch-22.”
Richard Taylor said he would "take a look at and consider" the public comments, while Dara Dana urged people to vote, saying Fuller and her staff represent their assurance of voting integrity and that their votes are needed locally and in the state to rein in Democrats.
“We have to make sure we get out the vote. Otherwise this state is gone after November,” she said.
She also said that poll workers cannot be harassed and that more discussions have to be held.
“I know a bunch of you worked a poll and you learned a lot. Thank you very much. I am glad you learned a lot,” she said. “You have to educate us, but we have to educate you. Be educated. Yes, it is, it is a two-way street.”
Commission Chair Will Cavin told one speaker that the commission relies a great deal on the county clerk for guidance on how to deal with elections. He said the commission could not answer specific questions about what actions it might take.
He also acknowledged his own concerns about current New Mexico election law, including its provisions regarding same-day voter registration, ballot drop boxes and absentee voting.
“We are paying attention. We are listening,” he said. “How we go about it is going to be the issue that we have to come to. As much as we appreciate Otero County and what they are doing, how we handle this will be the way we handle it.”
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.
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