Vote fraud may have occurred in one of the closest House races in the country last fall, according to an audit of absentee ballots.
Republican Yvette Herrell declared victory on election night, Nov. 6, over Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat. But after more votes were counted, Torres Small was declared the winner by about 3,500 votes of about 200,000 cast.
Torres Small’s victory depended heavily on absentee ballots from Doña Ana County, the largest county in the district, including the Las Cruces area, the Daily Signal pointed out.
The audit report indicates potential fraud in applying for absentee ballots and says a significant number of absentee ballots were time-stamped after the 7 p.m. deadline election night.
The Herrell campaign commissioned the report by Full Compliance Consulting LLC and Herrell campaign lawyer Carter B. Harrison.
The Daily Signal said Herrell’s campaign is not contesting the outcome. The review was sought based on the campaign’s concerns about extra votes cast.
The House seat has been held by a Republican for all but one term since 1968. But the retiring, Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, was re-elected in 2016 by only 26 points.
Republican President Trump won the district by 10 points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Harrison, the campaign lawyer, said “there were not enough irregularities in Dona Ana County alone to alter our race.”
But local races could have been altered, he said, and if other counties “were to be found to have similar irregularities, the race certainly could have been altered by them.”
Nongovernmental groups, the report says, “are almost certainly engaging in at best aggressive — and at worst fraudulent — procurement of absentee ballot applications.”
One quarter of the people who purportedly requested absentee ballots from the Doña Ana County clerk didn’t mail them back, according to the report.
That is more than twice the statewide average for unreturned absentee ballots.
In the district, a voter seeking an absentee ballot must send in an application providing a reason why he or she can’t vote in person on Election Day.
The return rate “is suggestive of the possibility that someone was submitting absentee ballot applications for Democrats and those deemed likely to vote for Democrats,” the report says.