With the 2020 General Election on the horizon, New Mexico is among many states looking at how to continue developing free, fair, safe and secure election processes.

“The public must perceive that voting is easy and accessible, while at the same time believe that the election is secure and that results are determined fairly and accurately, without partisan bias, technological flaws, or foreign interference.” – 2018 Election Administration, Security, and Election Reform Report

The UNM Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy (CSVED), with support from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, is releasing its 2018 Election Administration, Security, and Election Reform Report – assessing the characteristics of voters and the 2018 campaign, voter experiences, and voter concerns about election security. The examination of voter attitudes and experiences with the election, along with their concerns about election security and preferences for election reforms, provides valuable data about improving elections in our state.

“It’s wonderful to see how much confidence New Mexicans already had in our elections in 2018, and voters should know that since then we have made registering to vote and participating in our democracy even safer and easier. The more data we have about voter attitudes and behaviors, the better my Office and New Mexico’s election administrators are at providing fair and secure elections,” said N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. “That’s why these studies from the University of New Mexico that analyze the data over multiple elections are so important. I thank professors Lonna Atkeson and Wendy Hansen and their entire team for the hard work they did on this study.”

The survey and subsequent report were conducted by Lonna Atkeson and Wendy Hansen, professors of political science at UNM. In addition, Atkeson is the director of the UNM Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy, and executive director of the UNM Institute for Social Research.

“Comparing data across elections really gives us a wide scope through which to view changes in future election protocol,” Atkeson explained. “Following the 2016 General Election, claims of voter fraud, foreign interference and election tampering dominated the national spotlight. Those conversations leaked into the 2018 election and are continuing now. Understanding and addressing the root of these concerns among voters is imperative to the health of our democracy.”

Beginning in 2006, and in every subsequent federal election, CSVED has examined the New Mexico election eco-system and has produced a report that reflects those findings.  State and local official use the information to help assess their election process to improve them. This partnership is unique, and no other state or election jurisdiction has had the kind of sustained and independent scrutiny over multiple elections.

Help America Vote Act (HAVA) resources from the Secretary of State’s Office were used to fund this work to help guide New Mexico election policy and incorporate public understanding of the process into those reforms. It is also meant to serve as a guide to voters about the health of their state democracy and backdrop of elections in New Mexico.

Read the full report here, and select key findings below. 

Key Findings:

Regarding the Characteristics of Voters and the 2018 campaign

  • 55.4 percent of registered voters in New Mexico voted in the 2018 election.
  • New Mexico’s turnout rate is 47.1. The national turnout average was 50.1.
  • Over the last almost two decades, the percentages of both registered Democrats and Republicans has declined.
  • Women are far more likely to belong to the Democratic Party than men.
  • Older voters are more partisan than younger voters. Voters 29 and under are twice as likely to not identify with a party
  • 32 percent of voters in NM had Hispanic surnames while 68 percent did not.

From Voter Experiences

  • New Mexico voters, on average, reported waiting about 6 minutes in line to vote during the 2018 midterm election.
  • Recent research suggests that some voters are very concerned about their ballot privacy and doubt that their vote is secure and/or private. About 96 percent of voters asked either strongly agree or somewhat agree that their privacy was protected.
  • Almost 9 in 10 voters were very or somewhat confident that their ballot was counted correctly.
  • Hispanics and Native Americans indicate they recall being asked for ID more often than whites or blacks.
  • African Americans were the most likely group of voters to feel it was more important to ensure eligible voters got the chance to vote. Hispanic voters were the least likely group of voters to feel this way.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 voters indicate they pay attention to whether a candidate is publicly or privately funded or not. This is an 11-point increase from 2016.

About Voter Concerns about Election Security

  • Data suggests a rather large majority of voters are worried about election security. 
  • Nearly one-quarter of voters indicate they are very concerned about the possibility of cyber threats or hacking of New Mexico Elections.
  • Responses suggested six concerns about election security in New Mexico, along with a significant number of voters who indicated no concerns. The six concerns included:
    • hacking and vote tampering;
    • vote fraud;
    • corruption among election officials, poll workers, or the individuals who service the machines;
    • ballot procedures;
    • voter suppression; and,
    • the quality of the voter rolls.
  • Voter concerns about foreign interference in the election were much higher in 2016 than 2018. 

Almost half of voters tend to believe that casting double votes, vote tampering, and machine hacking happens very infrequently.