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GOP disputes removal of 4 New Mexico election challengers

October 31, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Election administrators and the Republican Party are clashing about the oversight of the absentee balloting process in a southern New Mexico county.

Four Republican-appointed election challengers were removed from a warehouse in Dona Ana County, where absentee ballots are being processed, according to the state Republican Party and the state elections director.

The Dona Ana County clerk’s office referred questions to the deputy clerk who was not immediately available for comment.

Challengers are appointed by political parties in New Mexico to be present as county election boards verify and tally ballots and can dispute the veracity of ballots for a variety of reasons.

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State Elections Director Mandy Vigil, with the secretary of state’s office, said her office received reports that Republican-appointed challengers were removed for disrupting and intimidating the county’s absentee precinct board and that one challenger reportedly grabbed the elections board director during a confrontation. She urged Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce to respond.

“Please confirm that the Republican Party is not instructing its challengers to disobey election board members or are encouraging willful violations of the election code,” Vigil said.

In a public statement, the Republican Party said the challengers were rightfully doing there job, that an assault did not take place and that two of the challengers were uninvolved in any way.

Dona Ana County represents a crucial voting bloc in a swing-district congressional race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican former state legislator Yvette Herrell. Torres Small won by fewer than 4,000 votes in 2018.