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Photo Illustration: The shadow of Donald Trump looms over New Mexico
MSNBC / Getty Images

New Mexico county gives Trump-inspired fascism a test run

The GOP-led commission in Otero County, New Mexico, is using Jan. 6-inspired tactics to prevent the certification of primary election results.


UPDATE (June 15, 2022 7:02 p.m. ET): This story has been updated to reflect the New Mexico Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday ordering the Otero County Board of Commissioners to certify the June 7 primary election results by June 17.

A New Mexico county run by Donald Trump loyalists is putting the disgraced former president’s fascist election-undermining schemes to the test. 

On Tuesday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, sued the three-member Otero County Board of Commissioners, where officials armed with right-wing conspiracy theories have refused to certify the county’s primary election results. The suit asks the state Supreme Court to compel the commission, led entirely by Republicans in a largely conservative county, to certify the votes. 

In a statement, Oliver’s office said, “the commission illegally refused to certify the results, potentially disenfranchising every Otero County voter who legally and securely cast a ballot and harming candidates seeking to have their names on the General Election ballot.”

The primary elections were held June 7. State law gives county officials no more than 10 days after an election to certify results. But over the last week, Otero County commissioners have repeatedly shown they don’t intend to do that. On Monday, they cited baseless allegations of fraudulent voting machines as their reason for not certifying last week’s primary results. Along with the secretary of state, the move was opposed by the Otero County’s Republican clerk, according to The Alamogordo Daily News.

But the commission has honed in on a familiar scapegoat in machines provided by Dominion Voting Systems, the election technology company Trump and his inner circle have falsely accused of aiding in election fraud. 

Last Thursday, the commission unanimously voted to recount ballots from the June 7 primary elections by hand, remove state-mandated ballot drop boxes used for absentee voting, and discontinue the use of vote tabulation machines in the general election. Those steps, widely believed to be illegal, came at the urging of Cuoy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner who was convicted in March of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 attack. Griffin, who helped found a group called Cowboys for Trump, has adopted the former president's baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud. 

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential for disrupting American elections. Thanks to the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, we’re seeing how Trump and his inner circle intended to use nonsensical voter fraud claims and delay the certification process in an attempt to stave off unfavorable election results and ensure their preferred candidates are seated — even by force. 

Multiple members of the Jan. 6 committee have warned their investigation is necessary to prevent future politicians from using similar means to thwart democracy in 2024 and beyond. But the GOP-led commission in Otero County is proving fascist Republicans won’t wait that long to deploy the Jan. 6 playbook. They’re putting it to use here and now.