Despite issuing a campaign statement of “no further comment” until all ballots are counted, New Mexican State Rep. Yvette Herrell, who was recently the Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District (CD-2), appeared on Fox News Saturday night.
Herrell was interviewed on Justice with Judge Jeanine, a prime-time show hosted by Jeanine Pirro. During the interview, both Pirro and Herrell stated factual inaccuracies regarding the race. Herrell spoke for just over a minute in the course of the four-minute interview.
The Daily Lobo reported on the contested CD-2 race, during and after Election Day. This included the vote count stop, Doña Ana’s increased absentee ballots and the final results, which called CD-2 for Democratic candidate Xochitl Torres Small.
This article will address the factual inaccuracies made, and provide sources to verify these facts.
“That’s pretty close”
Pirro mispronounces Torres Small’s name and Herrell does not correct her in an exchange: “Zo-chee-tell Torres Small, how do you pronounce her name?” Pirro asks.
Herrell responded, “That’s pretty close.”
According to ProunounceNames.com, Xochitl is pronounced “S-oh-cheel.” You can also watch New Mexico State University's KWRG interview, where the host introduces Torres Small with the correct pronunciation.
“Everyone announced the race, and you’d won.”
Pirro listed NBC, Townhall, CNN and the Albuquerque Journal as new outlets that called the race, which was a correct statement. However, NMPolitics.com and the Daily Lobo both reported that absentee ballots were outstanding and the outcome was not final.
In a Santa Fe Reporter article, Editor in Chief Julie Ann Grimm talked with New Mexico political analyst and pollster Brian Sanderoff about how he incorrectly called the race. It was Sanderoff’s call that catalyzed all the incorrect calls made by other news sources.
Sanderoff told the Reporter if he had known Doña Ana County had not entered absentee ballots into the system he would have changed his prediction.
“Simple math tells you. … If I knew those early and absentee votes were not in the mix, I would have known Xochtil was going to win,” Sanderoff said in a phone interview.
Projections made by the media do not determine who holds political office. Some prominent media mis-calls include the 1948 and 2000 Presidential Elections.
The Secretary of State’s communications director, Alex Curtas, told the Daily Lobo, “It doesn’t matter what you say if you’re conceding. The votes determine who won the race.”
According to the NMSOS unofficial results, Torres Small won 50.7 percent of the vote for CD-2, at 99,632 votes, by a margin of 2,796 votes.
Official results will not be available until the end of November.
When seat was held
Pirro described CD-2 as being “held by a Republican for the past sixteen years.”
However, from 2009 to 2011, Democrat Harry Teague held the seat. Republican Steve Pearce held the seat since 2011, before leaving it open to run for governor.
The “magical ballots”
Herrell said in a phone call with the Secretary of State’s office told Herrell in the terms “magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.”
She then describes a later phone call with County Clerk Amanda López Askin, “We get another call saying they found yet another 4,000 ballots not yet added to the ballot count.”
Pirro called it “8,000 new votes,” which is misleading. This statement implies the existence of the absentee ballots came by surprise, which is incorrect.
López Askin said the county had “triple to quadruple the amount of absentee ballots this year” compared to both 2014 and 2016. She said the Absent Voter Board (AVB) — the independent seven-member body appointed for two years to tabulate absentee ballots — had been expecting a smaller volume of “around 2,000 or 3,000 ballots.”
The few workers available to count the unexpectedly large amount of absentee ballots is partially to blame for delayed results.
López Askin said there are approximately 8,000 absentee ballots in total, plus any walk-ins that were dropped off at the County Clerk’s Office and other polling locations Tuesday before the polls closed.
As first reported in the Daily Lobo, of those roughly 8,000 absentee ballots, 4,974 votes had been counted when the counting process was closed on election night. Due to the way absentee ballots are tabulated, results are delivered all at once, without initial counts.
“It does not matter if we have 7,999 (absentee ballots) and we’re waiting on one, we still cannot give those results until they are all in,” López Askin said at the time.
To summarize, these votes did not appear magically, the vote totals could not be released without counting every absentee ballot first.
Herrell doesn’t specify what the “hundreds of complaints” about the election are regarding or which candidate they address. More than anything else this statement is vague, which opens itself up to being misleading.
Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.