The newly released New Mexico Election Study (NMES) reveals a successful general election in 2022, meaning the election was run well with strong security to protect the system against fraud, while also having many opportunities to ensure voter access.  

The 2022 NMES, completed by University of New Mexico (UNM) Professor Emeritus Lonna Atkeson, now director of the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University (FSU), and UNM Political Science Professor Wendy Hansen, with support from the New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, highlights the changes and advances in election administration using voter registration data, election observations, and surveys of voters.    

“The New Mexico Election Study has been pivotal in helping NM rank first in the Election Performance Index this year,” said Atkeson. “As our report outlines, New Mexico does elections well.” 

“The information and data in these reports is crucial for assessing the public’s views about their voting experiences in New Mexico,” said Toulouse Oliver. “Though it’s a great achievement that New Mexico’s election administration has been ranked first in the nation, there’s always room for growth. These data assist my office and election administrators throughout New Mexico in understanding voter perspectives, identifying successful practices, and pinpointing areas requiring improvement.” 


The 2022 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security and Election Reform Report is the 9th NMES report on the integrity of elections in New Mexico. Begun in 2006 by Professor Atkeson, this effort represents a unique, continuous time series documenting the successes and failures in election administration for each federal election.  

Hansen and Atkeson have worked on election integrity projects for years, and are two key players in democracy-based research. Over time, dramatic improvements have been made in ease of voter registration, convenience of voting, voter wait times, vote security, voter confidence and more.  

“But there is always room for improvement,” said Hansen, “for example by enhancing voter confidence in ballot secrecy.”   

There is plenty to take away from this report and the recommendations made therein. 

Chapter 2 highlights the general success of the state election in New Mexico. The 2022 election had the largest number of voters for a midterm election since 2002. It was the second time New Mexico permitted same-day registration, which added 10,694 new, same-day registrants. It also compares NM turnout to the other states in the nation and provides a breakdown of 2022 voters and registrants across demographic and partisan groups. Gubernatorial and federal contests, including candidate spending and election outcomes, are also covered.   

Chapters 3 and 4 cover voter experiences, behaviors, confidence, and attitudes towards reforms. Importantly the data show that 85% of those surveyed were confident that their ballot was counted as intended. Voter experiences matter to voter confidence, and the report clarifies how. For example, only 21% of voters who thought their privacy was not protected were confident their ballot was counted correctly, compared to 72% of those who thought their privacy was protected.  

The report also highlights some places for improvement. In particular, about one-third of voters are not sure whether their ballot privacy is protected. The report suggests that the Secretary of State start a campaign to educate voters about how every ballot is secret and that election officials and poll workers cannot connect ballots with voters. 

The preference for safe, secure voting was further revealed through in-person voting testimonies. With one in four voters reporting the offer or presence of a privacy sleeve in 2022, this report recommends that availability of these privacy sleeves for in-person voting should continue to expand. In addition to New Mexico’s reported fast, easy and amiable voting centers, privacy sleeves would further increase voter confidence by respecting voter privacy.   

In the 2022 election, mail-in ballots remained popular, with 33% of absentee voters tracking the progress of their ballots. Over half of those surveyed who tracked their ballot believed the election was too important to risk their ballot being rejected. Others tracked their ballots out of concern that their ballots would be lost in the mail or rejected. 

Atkeson and Hansen recommend that with this interest in ballot tracking continuing beyond the pandemic, the program should be expanded. Additionally, there should be protocols in place so more people who vote by mail can sign up to track their ballot, thus building further trust in the overall election system. 

With the expansion of mail balloting, about 6% of voters received mail ballots to their home that did not belong to anyone in their household. Atkeson and Hansen recommend the NMSOS provide instructions to voters about what to do if they receive such ballots. In addition, they recommend an online registry that voters can use to identify and report erroneous ballots. That could also provide further data and an opportunity to learn from errors going forward. 

There is plenty that New Mexico is doing right. The Land of Enchantment is a very voter-centric state with a priority on voter accessibility. That includes relatively easy authentication at the polls, no-excuse absentee balloting, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration.   

Historically, New Mexico has been a unique state in terms of voting rights and will continue to be one ripe for study. This research is similarly unique; no other known state or election jurisdiction has been subject to this kind of sustained and independent scrutiny over multiple elections.  

Those interested can access the full NMES 2022 report here.