Nationally, I don’t like the Big Lie accusations going back and forth. If you lose an election in the United States, it is not okay to throw a big tantrum, fire everyone in sight, and encourage domestic extremists to mobilize and storm the Capitol the day the Electoral College votes are tallied.

That’s my opinion.

Nor do I like elements of the GOP or Republican-led state legislature overly politicizing the elections process to favor their candidates. This is precisely what they have been accusing the Democrats of—voter suppression. This is not okay, either.

That’s my opinion.

I have read with interest the coverage in The Grant County Beat and The Silver City Daily Press about voter registration in Grant County. Because I have (for good reason) been following local elections there since 1998.

There is something weird happening there. The general gist of the issue is that a LOT of voters are registered in Grant County. Like 92% of eligible voters in the 2020 election. The original story was posted in The Grant County Beat in April and cited reports from the NM Audit Force.

Now, NM Audit Force is run by the same folks who conducted the $50K audit in Otero County that I previously referred to in this column as “crazypants.” I stand by that characterization. Canvassing voters by asking them personally door-to-door for whom they voted is not an acceptable method. And conducting such an audit with a goal of proving a “stolen election” in a county Trump won by 20 points also makes no sense.

That’s my opinion.

So I decided to look at the numbers myself. I reviewed census numbers for Grant County for 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2020, and subtracted children under 18 from the total to arrive at a total number of eligible voters. I then divided the total number of registered voters by the number of total eligible voters listed in the NM Secretary of State records to get a percentage.

1990: Total eligible – 22,307; Total registered – 13,315; Percentage – 59.6%

2000: Total eligible – 24,182; Total registered – 18,581; Percentage – 76.8%

2010: Total eligible – 23,788; Total registered – 21,051; Percentage – 88.6%

2020: Total eligible – 22,479; Total registered – 20,657; Percentage – 91.9%

That…doesn’t seem right. Nationally and statewide, voter registration was its highest level in history in 2020, and it broke down like this: National voter registration – 72.7%; Statewide voter registration – 82.5% (the statewide number is my calculation using the method listed above, the national is a census figure).

The NM Audit Force claims the spike in registration happened between the 2016 and 2020 elections. Census and Secretary of State data as cited above show this to be untrue. The spike took place between 1990 and 2004, when registration grew from 13,315 to 21,100 – proportionally well ahead of population growth.

I would love to believe that the residents of the county where I grew up are especially zealous about the civic responsibility to vote. But, frankly, I don’t.

That’s my opinion.

What did change were recorded presidential voter turnout numbers. In 1992, Grant County recorded a whopping 77.2% voter turnout in the election. That’s a number never seen before. Nor after. Not even in 2020—the best year ever for voter turnout—has seen a number out of the 60th percentile, nationally or statewide.

One thing that is true. The switch to machine-read paper ballots in the first decade of this century made absentee ballot interference much more difficult. The only real way to obtain more ballots would be obtain more voters.

I ran the numbers for successive presidential elections, since they have the highest turnout, and the numbers remain somewhat flat from 1990 through 2016, despite the significant increase in registered voters. In other words, a smaller percentage from a larger pool of voters voted.

1992: 10,277, or 77.2% of 13,315 registered voters cast ballots.

2000: 11,241, or 60.5% of 18,581 registered voters cast ballots.

2004: 13,992, or 63.5% of 21,100 registered voters cast ballots.

2008: 13,755, or 61.6% of 22,233 registered voters cast ballots.

2012: 12,902, or 61.7% of 20,898 registered voters cast ballots.

2016: 12,811, or 56.7% of 22,587 registered voters cast ballots.

2020: 14,435, or 69.9% of 20,657 registered voters cast ballots.

Statewide voter turnout in 2020 was 68.7%, so county turnout was in line with state performance. Also, registration actually declined 8.5% from 2016 to 2020, instead of increasing as NM Audit Force claimed. Notwithstanding, to me, the sheer registration numbers are troubling.

There are a few things I know from years past. My Grant County voter registration was not purged for at least nine years after I reregistered to vote in another state. In 2008, I received “Voter ID” cards from the Secretary of State. Note the plural. I received one for my current residence in Bernalillo County and one for my parents’ residence in Grant County which I claimed until I left the military in 1999.

I also have a number of unusual anecdotes from family members and friends. But because I wasn’t there to verify their accounts in person, I am not going to share them here. I take election integrity too seriously to throw out unverified accusations.

It’s important to me to share real numbers with you here and emphasize what is purely opinion. There has been too much fumbling around with the former and presenting as fact the latter.

This is all serious, and I appreciate local publications taking up the issue with the concern it is due. The Secretary of State and perhaps even the State Auditor need to look into Grant County’s voter rolls and purging processes, for a start. Election participation is central to our democracy. Let’s encourage everyone to vote and do so with confidence.