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The election and its final twists and turns

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Dispatch New Mexico

By Tom McDonald

The way I figure it, the Republicans are getting the Supreme Court judge they want but they’re going pay for it by losing big in the midterm elections.

If Democrats don’t at least take the U.S. House this time around, I’ll be both stunned and disappointed. America needs a check on Trump’s irrational hold over Washington, and I’ll bet a lot of outraged, anti-Trump people — particularly women — are going to vote with a vengeance this year.

Have you seen the television and internet ads, the paid-for-by-the-party or –special-interest ads that take some real or alleged impropriety, put a little doomsday music into the background, and warn us not to vote for their evil opponent? I’m not a big TV watcher (but, yes, I broke down and got it hooked up again), but I’ve seen a barrage of negative ads running on New Mexico’s airwaves against Pearce, Lujan-Grisham, Herrell, Torres-Small, Heinrich, Johnson, Colón, Garcia-Richard, Lyons … and I’ll bet I’ve missed others. ‘Tis indeed the season to go negative.

These dark and foreboding ads don’t influence me one way or another, other than irritating me from time to time. I just automatically assume they’re hyperbolic or untrue, and besides, I’ve already made up my mind in most of the races, so why bother trying to discern campaign “facts” from fiction anymore?

To further exaggerate the issues for me, I get the campaigns’ press releases, including those partisan screamers from Republicans and Democrats and others who condemn their opponent and lavish praise for their candidate. There is no middle ground in any of these campaign equations; it’s an us-vs.-them mentality all the way.

Meanwhile, the candidates make themselves available as much as they can. In a city the size of Santa Rosa, that’s occasionally, not frequently. They roll into town, always friendly and responsive, and answer questions they’ve been asked a million times by now.

We small-town newspaper types cover them as best we can when they hit town. We snap pictures and take notes. In addition to the candidates themselves, we interact with their campaign handlers — nice enough folks, and genuine, in a politically honest sort of way.

Now comes the final stretch on the campaign trial. Absentee and early voting starts this week in New Mexico. Expect a big turnout on both sides. The “culture war” has never been stronger, and that’ll sure enough fire up the base on both sides of the great divide.

Could there be an October surprise, something that will shake up the national mood? At this point, I’m not sure what could pry voters out of their foxholes, but you never know. Now that Brett Kavanaugh is no longer on top of the news cycle, maybe it’s Robert Mueller’s turn again.

Then there’s Trump himself. He’s going to be out campaigning, and you never know what he’s going to say.

I doubt he’ll visit New Mexico. I don’t think any of the candidates for statewide office will ask him to. Not if they want to get elected.

But if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that we never know until the votes are counted. And even then, thanks to recent demonstrations of how easy it is to hack into the election, some states might not “know” even after the votes are counted.

The security of our national elections depends on the states; they regulate and run their own elections. Their methods vary widely, from states like New Jersey, which uses paperless direct-recording electronic voting machines, to New Mexico and its use of paper ballots.

Last February, the Center for American Progress released an election study that breaks down the issue by state. The report, “Election Security in All 50 States: Defending America’s Elections,” speaks well of New Mexico.

The researchers evaluated each state based on seven “security factors”: cyber-security standards for voter registration systems; voter-verified paper audit trail; post-election audits that test election results; ballot accounting and reconciliation; the return of voted paper absentee ballots; voting machine certification requirements; and re-election logic and accuracy testing.

Based on those standards, New Mexico got a “B” — along with 10 other states. No state got an A.
For once, New Mexico looks good in a state-by-state comparison. It’s nice to know that our vote, at least here in the Land of Enchantment, still counts.

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. He also owns and operates The Communicator in Santa Rosa. He can be reached at tmcdonald.srnm@gmail.com.