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State launches website to fact-check election misinformation

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With New Mexico’s 2022 primary election coming up next week, the Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday launched a website dedicated to fact-checking misinformation.

Spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, Alex Curtas, said false and misleading information about voting and elections is spreading nationally. “In New Mexico, we’re not immune from that," he told KUNM.

The Rumor vs Reality site features questions and answers about voter privacy, election integrity and state audits.

“We tried to single out some of the most pervasive points of misinformation,” said Curtas.

One question is about who has access to voter data. The site explains that state law requires that voter information only be released for use in campaigns, elections, or for governmental and academic purposes. It goes on to clarify that the limited data does not specify what or who a person voted for.

In a recent U.S. district court hearing, the state defended its objection to the Voter Reference Foundation publishing New Mexico voter records online. The judge took no action. Curtas said a second hearing in this case is expected to be scheduled for later this summer.

Curtas said when rumors go unchecked, voters can lack confidence in elections.

“If people lose faith in the process, they don’t have faith in the actual people who get elected,” he said. “And if you don’t have faith in those people who are elected, you start to lose faith in our institutions. And that really has a bad snowball effect for our government, and country in general.”

A recent poll showed nearly 30% of New Mexico voters were not confident in 2020 state election results, and over 40% lacked confidence in the nationwide results.

With a statewide primary election next week, Curtas said launching the site now is about getting ahead of the rumor mill, rather than playing defense.

“I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to anticipate that people will question the outcomes of the election,” he said. “And how it was run, and how it was audited and all that.”

Curtas said the website will continue to be updated as more misinformation and questions surface.

If you hear election rumors you’d like the Secretary of State’s Office to fact check on the site, you can email Sos.elections@state.nm.us. This Thursday, June 2, is the last day to request an absentee ballot for next Tuesday’s primary election.

The Your New Mexico Government project is a collaboration between KUNM and New Mexico PBS with support from the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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