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New Mexico’s voters should feel secure

August 19, 2018

New Mexico voters can be confident that their votes are protected and that they count. Why? Because New Mexico has some of the most secure elections in the nation.

In fact, the election-security best practices that we have used here for years are being adopted by states across the country. These best practices include New Mexico’s use of paper ballots and ensuring that the machines we use to count ballots are never connected to the internet, making it very difficult for any bad actor to change votes. Plus, we conduct robust pre- and postelection audits and system checks to make sure the results of our elections are accurate.

It’s good to see that other states are starting to implement these policies and processes, too. These safeguards can prevent an attack on voting systems from happening in the first place while providing a backup plan should any meddling occur.

While I’m confident that New Mexico’s election system is strong and resilient, there is always work to be done to make our elections even more secure. That’s why I recently testified before Congress about the security of New Mexico’s elections and how the federal government can help to further harden our nation’s defenses against foreign attacks on our elections.

Last month, I stressed to members of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that elections are chronically underfunded and too often treated like emergencies rather than the critical infrastructure of our democracy that they are. To secure our elections long-term, chief election officials like me need to be able to rely on consistent and adequate funding sources.

The federal government took a step in the right direction this year when Congress approved the transfer of approximately $380 million in Help America Vote Act funds to help all 50 states upgrade their election security systems. New Mexico’s portion of the Help America Vote Act funding is $3.6 million. Because our state is ahead of the curve on election-security best practices like our paper ballot system, we are using our HAVA dollars in more creative and innovative ways.

To that end, I already have launched a new election-security program in my office using some of the funds. This program will provide much-needed training and resources to New Mexico’s county clerks on a range of election cybersecurity issues. Additionally, some of the HAVA funds we received will be used to help counties purchase new and more robust voting machines. Focusing these resources on our counties is crucial because they are the ones on the front lines, administering elections at the local level.

While President Donald Trump refuses to accept that Russia carried out a coordinated attack on our election systems in 2016 and it is still ongoing in 2018, my fellow secretaries of state and I are stepping up to the challenge to ensure voters are protected from outside interference regardless of political party.

So be confident, New Mexico: Donald Trump might believe Vladimir Putin, but I believe the facts. And I’ll always protect New Mexico from anyone who tries to undermine our democracy.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver is the New Mexico secretary of state.

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