30 April 2024

UNM Contact:
Savannah Peat, University Communication Representative
The University of New Mexico

Sec. of State Contact:
Alex Curtas, Director of Communications
New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office

New Mexico Election Study Reveals Key Insights on Voting Patterns
“New Mexico does elections well.”

ALBUQUERQUE – The 2022 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security and Election Reform Report (NMES) was released yesterday and provides the public with detailed data about how voters experienced the 2022 General Election. The report “represents a systematic examination of voter attitudes and experiences with the election, concerns about election security, and preferences for election reforms” (p. 10). A copy of the report can be accessed here:

The 2022 NMES, completed by University of New Mexico (UNM) Professor Emeritus Lonna Atkeson, now director of the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University (FSU), and UNM Political Science Professor Wendy Hansen, with support from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, highlights the changes and advances in election administration using voter registration data, election observations, and surveys of voters.    

“The New Mexico Election Study has been pivotal in helping New Mexico rank first in the Election Performance Index this year,” said Atkeson. “As our report outlines, New Mexico does elections well.” 

“The information and data in these reports is crucial for assessing the public’s views about their voting experiences in New Mexico,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “Though it’s a great achievement that New Mexico’s election administration has been ranked first in the nation, there’s always room for growth. This data assists my office and election administrators throughout New Mexico in understanding voter perspectives, identifying successful practices, and pinpointing areas requiring improvement.”

This is the ninth iteration of the NMES. Begun in 2006 by Professor Atkeson, this effort represents a unique, continuous time series documenting the successes and shortcomings in election administration for each federal election. As stated in the report, “no other state or election jurisdiction has had this kind of sustained and independent scrutiny over multiple elections” (p. 11). Previous reports can be accessed here.

Here are some key findings detailed in the report:

  • Chapter 2 highlights the general success of the state election in New Mexico. The 2022 election had the largest number of voters for a midterm election since 2002. It was the second time New Mexico permitted same-day registration, which added 10,694 new, same-day registrants. It also compares NM turnout to the other states in the nation and provides a breakdown of 2022 voters and registrants across demographic and partisan groups. Gubernatorial and federal contests, including candidate spending and election outcomes, are also covered.   
  • Chapters 3 and 4 cover voter experiences, behaviors, confidence, and attitudes towards reforms. Importantly the data show that 85% of those surveyed were confident that their ballot was counted as intended. Voter experiences matter to voter confidence, and the report clarifies how. For example, only 21% of voters who thought their privacy was not protected were confident their ballot was counted correctly, compared to 72% of those who thought their privacy was protected.  

The report also highlights some places for improvement: 

  • In particular, about one-third of voters are not sure whether their ballot privacy is protected. The report suggests that the Secretary of State start a campaign to educate voters about how every ballot is secret and that election officials and poll workers cannot connect ballots with voters. 
  • The preference for safe, secure voting was further revealed through in-person voting testimonies. With one in four voters reporting the offer or presence of a privacy sleeve in 2022, this report recommends that availability of these privacy sleeves for in-person voting should continue to expand. In addition to New Mexico’s reported fast, easy and amiable voting centers, privacy sleeves would further increase voter confidence by respecting voter privacy.   
  • In the 2022 election, mail-in ballots remained popular, with 33% of absentee voters tracking the progress of their ballots. Over half of those surveyed who tracked their ballot believed the election was too important to risk their ballot being rejected. Others tracked their ballots out of concern that their ballots would be lost in the mail or rejected. Atkeson and Hansen recommend that with this interest in ballot tracking continuing beyond the pandemic, the program should be expanded, which the Secretary of State’s Office has done for the 2024 elections. 

There is plenty that New Mexico is doing right. The Land of Enchantment is a voter-centric state with a priority on voter accessibility. That includes relatively easy authentication at the polls, no-excuse absentee balloting, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration.   

Historically, New Mexico has been a unique state in terms of voting rights and will continue to be one ripe for study. This research is similarly unique; no other known state or election jurisdiction has been subject to this kind of sustained and independent scrutiny over multiple elections.