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Election officials: CD2 automatic race recount unlikely, lawsuits expected

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AEC paper ballot counting

Election Day has come and gone for New Mexico. And one race in particular is too close to call––the heavily contested congressional district 2.

Alex Curtas, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, joined KUNM Wednesday morning to chat about when we might see the results, what voter turnout looked like, and how election night went in general.

KUNM: Well, I think I speak for all when I say we were glued to our computer and phone screens last night following one race in particular: Congressional District 2, where Republican incumbent, Yvette Herrell is being challenged by Democrat Gabe Vasquez. The race is close right now... So, when will we know the winner?

ALEX CURTAS: Sure, well, like you said the the CD2 race, that's where all eyes are on. Right now it looks like there's a difference of about 1000 votes, 1015 votes in favor of Gabe Vasquez. The vote is in. All the precincts are reporting, there might be some slight outstanding votes still out there. But probably it's very small at this point. We're going to go through the canvassing process now. November 29, is when the state canvassing board meets, and that's when these results become official. So, until the state canvassing board meets this, these are all unofficial results. But if once the state canvassing board meets this, you know, say that this margin of difference holds between Vasquez and Herrell, that is not within the one quarter of one percentage point difference that triggers an automatic recount. If it was within that, the state canvas board would order those recounts. But it's possible that the candidate themselves could order or recount, they have to pay for it in that circumstance. It's also possible, we might see some lawsuits around this because of the kind of high profile nature of the race and the importance of it in control of the US Congress.

KUNM: Your office went off-site for last night's election for safety purposes, as you said. How was election day itself? Any threats, problems at polls, perhaps?

CURTAS: Thankfully, the election went off very, very smoothly. And we did not have any disruptions at the polls, no, you know, coordinated efforts of intimidation or harassment. It was a very smooth process. At every level. There were some some small, little, problems throughout the day that are just kind of always to be expected in an election like that. But, really nothing that caused disruption at the polls, nothing that prevented people from voting. So, from the election administration perspective, it was a great success. The only thing I would say on that, it looks like we only reached about 51% total turnout. And you know, as election administrators, we'd like it to be 100%. That could have been better. And that actually is a little bit less than the last midterm election in 2018, where we got to 55% total turnout. So, it was slightly lower than the last midterm election.

KUNM: Well, Alex, let me ask you, how was voter turnout itself yesterday for people voting in person? Was it was it significant?

CURTAS: Yes, it was. It was great. Well over 200,000 people turned out just yesterday. We had, you know, great in-person early voting turnout during the early voting period, you know, well over 250,000 people voted then. And then we had, around 100,000 absentee ballot requests go out. So, it was robust turnout, we would just always liked to have seen it higher. One other good thing though, out of the the numbers from yesterday, is that we had about 20,000 people utilize same-day voter registration. That was both during the early voting period and on election day, but 10,000 people just yesterday on Election Day utilized same-day voter registration, so they were able to register and vote right then. So that's a really great, opportunity for voters to participate, even if they missed those those other registration deadlines. So that was good to see.

Bryce Dix is our new local host for NPR's Morning Edition.