A new report from the UNM Department of Political Science shows New Mexico had its largest voter turnout in recent history during the 2020 General Election.

The “2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report'' was produced by The University of New Mexico’s Department of Political Science with assistance from the Secretary of State’s Office using funds from the Help America Vote Act.

This is the eighth iteration of the post-election report. This research is conducted 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.

“The data we get from these reports is essential for gauging voters’ attitudes about their voting experiences and their perceptions of election administration in New Mexico,” said Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. “But this isn’t just an academic exercise. The data helps my Office and election administrators across New Mexico understand how voters are thinking, what’s working, and what needs improvement in the eyes of the customers we serve. I thank the report’s authors, professors Lonna Atkeson and Wendy L. Hansen, and the entire UNM team for their great work on producing this study.”

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and UNM Professor Lonna Atkeson unveiled the report at a virtual media event. Key findings of the report include how New Mexicans felt about their vote-by-mail experience in 2020, their attitudes on how election administrators secure the vote, overall confidence in election results, and recommended future policies.

There were 1,330,910 registered voters in the 2020 general election. Of those, 928,230 New Mexicans voted. This represents the largest turnout in recent NM history with a statewide turnout rate of 69.7 percent for registered voters and 61.3 percent of eligible voters. – “2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report”

“Considering the national conversation on voter privacy that’s been ongoing since 2016, we expanded this year’s survey to include questions on perceptions of ballot privacy and incidences of voter coercion,” explained Atkeson. “It’s a great example of why these comparative reports are important. We gain insight on current elections; and better understand the concerns facing voters regarding future elections. Comparing data across elections broadens the scope of our perspective on election protocol.”

Atkeson worked alongside colleague and UNM Political Science Professor Wendy Hansen to conduct a statewide survey that informed the report. The two also utilized the skills of graduate students Jared Clay, Dylan Mcarthur, M. Adnan Shahid; and undergraduate students Sarah Ann Polsin Joel Robinson. Together, the team surveyed voters in New Mexico, representing post- and pre-election voters, voters casting ballots by mail, and those voting in-person.

New Mexico saw a substantial increase in vote by mail (VBM), moving from roughly 10 percent of the electorate in the last several elections to 35 percent in 2020. New Mexico also saw the lowest amount of Election Day voters in its history, with only 16 percent of voters waiting until Election Day to cast their vote. Nevertheless, in-person voting was still the method of choice for NM voters, with 65 percent of voters choosing to vote in-person, 49 percent of which voted early in-person.

Another new finding in the report centered on fraud. Voters were given a list of possible illegal election activities and asked, “Which of the following situations did you personally observe in the 2020 general election?” Over three-quarters (77 percent) of NM voters indicated they did not personally witness any of these election fraud or irregular voting activities. 21 percent indicated they saw one or more election problems and 3 percent gave no response.

Of these illegal activities, the highest response was for unsolicited absentee ballots that did not belong to anyone in the household arriving at the voter’s residence. This occurred 7 percent of the time, a surprisingly high frequency.

Read more select key findings below or click here to read the full report.

Key Findings
2020 New Mexico Presidential General Election

  • The 2020 General Election saw the largest turnout in recent NM history with a statewide turnout rate of 69.7 percent for registered voters and 61.3 percent of eligible voters.
  • Democrats made up 48 percent of registered voters, but only 46 percent of voters in 2020.
  • Republicans made up 31 percent of registered voters, but 34 percent of voters in 2020.
  • 35 percent of 2020 voters voted by mail, 49 percent voted early in-person, and 16 percent voted on Election Day.
  • Just over half (56 percent) of voters were very confident and another one in five (21 percent) were somewhat confident that their vote was counted correctly. Thus, about three in four voters (77 percent) were very or somewhat confident that their ballot was counted correctly. About one in ten voters (12 percent) were not too confident and another one in ten (11 percent) were not at all confident (5 percent).
  • Vote confidence was not dependent on voters’ method of returning their ballot. Voters who dropped off their ballot in-person were equally confident as those who mailed it in.

Regarding Voter Experiences with Voting Process and Voter Confidence: Vote By Mail Voters

  • VBM voters typically only made up about 10 percent of voters in the last several elections, but in 2020 that number more than tripled to 35 percent.
  • 22 percent of voters indicated they chose to VBM because of COVID, while other reasons for voting by mail included being out of town (3 percent), convenience (18 percent), other obligations on Election Day (2 percent), and a physical disability (3 percent).
  • About three-fifths (59 percent) of VBM requests were completed online.

Regarding Voter Experiences with Voting Process and Voter Confidence: In-Person Voters

  • NM in-person voters, on average, reported waiting about 20 minutes to vote. This is much longer than voters waited in line in 2018 (6 minutes).
  • To assess ballot privacy, voters were asked if poll workers looked at their ballot. Only 5 percent of voters indicated that this happened to them.
  • Voters were also asked if other voters looked at their ballot; 2 percent responded yes.
  • 84 percent of voters were identified correctly with the minimum voter ID or with the voter’s preferred method, while 16 percent were identified incorrectly, and about 5 percent were uncertain. This is very comparable to 2018 findings.