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Couy Griffin

Otero County, New Mexico, home to 66,000 residents, is the scene of an election battle that could portend dark consequences for the future of American elections.

Earlier this week, the three-person county commission refused to certify the results of the June 7 primary. The commission is controlled by three Republicans, and their decision has triggered a crisis at the county level with an emergency meeting held on Friday.

At the time of the emergency meeting, the most high-profile commissioner, Couy Griffin, was in Washington D.C. facing his sentencing for participating in the January 6 riots. Griffin is known as the founder of Cowboys for Trump, and he was found guilty of entering a restricted area and acquitted on a disorderly conduct charge.

He has indicated that he has not changed his mind on the vote and will not vote to certify the election, but it is unknown whether he can phone in his vote.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the commission had to certify the results of the county’s election, but Griffin has publicly called on his fellow commissioners to stand firm and vote against certification.

Vague 'Concerns'

The three county commissioners have been somewhat vague about why exactly they refuse to certify election results. But just like on the national stage, election fraud has been a major talking point for Otero County since the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion voting machines have drawn the ire of conservatives across the country, and one county commissioner said she does not trust the machines during a public meeting last Monday. They did not cite specific irregularities and fell back on a general distrust of the voting machines.

“I don’t have specific examples that I can point to other than the recent audit and the canvass and the uncertainty of what that produced,” said Griffin during the meeting.

But election officials and other watchdogs have pointed out that the voting machines are available to the public to view prior to an election to see how the certification process works.

Mario Jimenez, a member of the progressive watchdog group Common Cause New Mexico, said, “they have no basis — other than ‘we just don’t trust the machine’ — for not certifying the election.”

Nonetheless, the county commission has received plenty of attention as an example of conservative strongholds refusing to allow votes to be counted properly.

New Mexico’s secretary of state called the situation “a canary in the coal mine.”

Election Unrest

The January 6 riots have a clear through line to election unease heading into the 2022 midterms. Ever since Trump and his allies claimed election fraud as the culprit behind his loss, conservative groups on the ground in heavily red areas have been laying the groundwork to contest election results going forward.

In some cases, it manifests in harmless sore losers like Joey Gilbert, who lost Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial primary and insisted election fraud was the reason for the loss.

But in other cases, like Otero County, Republican officials loyal to Trump have put in work to get into positions of power to hold up voting certification, almost as a proof of concept for future elections.

In all likelihood, the Otero County primary election results will be certified and be recognized as legitimate results.

However, Griffin and his fellow commissioners have successfully proven that you can contest election results by simply seizing power of the county commission.

While Congress attempts to bring details about the January 6 riots to light, conservatives across the country are working at the local level to increase their stranglehold on power in rural, red communities.

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