New Mexico, it’s time to modernize our elections (VIDEO)

What’s wrong with this picture? Voters waiting in line for hours to vote in Chaparral and Rio Rancho. Hard-to-update, inaccurate paper-based voter registration systems. It’s little wonder that New Mexico’s voter participation rate is so disappointing. Our elections should be free, fair and accessible to all New Mexicans.

Of course, Sarah has some answers:

Our Resident Smart Aleck Talks about ALEC (VIDEO)

Sarah Kennedy has a feast with all the products made by corporations that dropped their sponsorships of ALEC last week.

Just in case you missed the national furor about the American Legislative Exchange Council over the last week, here are a few links to bring you up to speed:

The Nation: How ALEC Took Florida’s ‘License to Kill’ Law National

NY Times: Embarrassed by Bad Laws

McClatchy: Study: ALEC has ‘secretive influence’ in Missouri statehouse

Common Cause: ALEC Exposed, for 24 Hours

(Special Bonus) Here’s an oldie, but goodie from ClearlyNM about one of ALEC’s interventions in New Mexico:

Kochtopus Bill Has Its Tentacles In The New Mexico Legislature

And speaking of the Koch brothers, this just in from Center for Media and Demoracy: ALEC Gets Support From Koch-Funded Americans for Prosperity

Crying Wolf: NM’s Secretary of State and Voter Fraud (VIDEO)

Secretary of State Dianna Duran kicked of the year with great media fanfare by making some very serious fraud allegations involving as many as 64,000 New Mexico voters.

A short time later, she sounded the alarm once again by taking the extraordinary step of bypassing county election officials altogether and instead turning over the voter files in question over to the State Police for investigation and possible criminal prosecution.

And yet today, after all of that initial sound and fury (not to mention public expense), it all seems to have all amounted to a whole bunch of nothin’. Oh never mind!

You can read about it in this excellent post at Democracy for New Mexico. But before you do, watch Sarah Kennedy’s short video on the subject. It’s a real howl!

Legality of Actions Questioned: Duran grilled over voter file examination (UPDATED)

By Matthew Reichbach

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran was grilled by lawmakers at an interim Courts, Corrections and Justice hearing Friday morning. The main topic of discussion was Duran’s decision to send tens of thousands of names that her office says are potentially fraudulent to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), or state police.

Duran repeatedly denied that she was looking for voter fraud throughout the hearing and said numerous times that she is merely trying to ensure “accuracy in the voter files.” Duran blamed the media for stoking the flames of people believing she is looking for voter fraud.

Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, questioned the legality of sending over 60,000 names on the voter file to the Department of Public Safety instead of referring it to the Attorney General or District Attorneys with jurisdiction in the area.

Chasey quoted section 1-2-1(3) of state election code which says the Secretary of State should “through the attorney general or the district attorney having jurisdiction, bring such actions as deemed necessary and proper for the enforcement of the provisions of the Election Code.”

Chasey also said, “It doesn’t appear to me that DPS should be allowed [under the law] to have social security numbers. That’s my issue on transparency and I don’t think that we want to invade people’s privacy.” Chasey cited 1-4-5(E) in the election code which says:

“It is unlawful for the qualified elector’s date of birth or any portion of the qualified elector’s social security number required on the certificate of registration to be copied, conveyed or used by anyone other than the person registering to vote, either before or after it is filed with the county clerk, and by elections administrators in their official capacity.”

Other legislators wondered why Duran did not send the information to county clerks. Duran said that it was a lot of information and that they are not yet at the step in the process where county clerks will be involved. “We are working closely with them,” Duran said, but added that the clerks will receive the information when the names have been categorized.

When asked, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who oversees the elections in the state’s most populous county, whether it would have been overly burdensome if the Secretary of State’s office had come to her before sending the information to the DPS, Toulouse Oliver told Clearly New Mexico, “Absolutely not.” Continue reading

Duran claims 10 percent of all votes could be voter fraud

By Matthew Reichbach

Despite no provable cases of voter fraud in recent New Mexico electoral history, Secretary of State Dianna Duran is turning over 64,000 cases of what her office calls potential voter fraud to the State Department of Public Safety.

Experts, however, say there are more likely explanations. The experts the numbers are likely due to a “list management problem” or clerical errors.

People frequently use different variations of their first names, she (Santa Fe County chief deputy county clerk and former state elections director, Denise Lamb) said, such as “Tom” instead of “Thomas” or “Patty” instead of “Patricia.” People aren’t always quick to report changes of addresses to the MVD, Lamb said. Frequently people mistakenly transpose numbers in addresses or Social Security numbers, she said.

But perhaps the most common problem: “County clerks face the decline in legible handwriting,” Lamb said. All voter-registration forms are filled out by hand, Lamb said. “I’m surprised we get as much right as we do.”

University of New Mexico professor Lonna Atkenson wondered why Duran turned the information over to the State Department of Public Safety instead of to individual county clerks to identify the problems.

One reason may be that Duran has made it one of her main goals to prove voter fraud. During the 2011 legislative session, Duran testified that 37 foreign nationals illegally voted in elections out of 117 who had illegally registered. Duran was speaking during a hearing on voter ID, a topic that Republicans have favored in recent legislative sessions but has yet to gain any traction in the state legislature.

However, Duran refused to release documents pertaining to the claims to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a number of media outlets that requested the information using the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

ACLU-NM director Peter Simonson told Clearly New Mexico that the documents were so heavily redacted as to be essentially useless.

“The redactions were so heavy that they don’t allow us to make any determination,” Simonson said. “The Secretary of State said she redacted the information we requested based on two issues: one, executive privilege; and two, driver privacy protection laws.”

Heath Haussamen of NMPolitics.net outlined similar problems and wrote in a commentary piece, “I’ve identified several potential IPRA violations stemming from her office’s dealings with me.” These included saying that the documents were part of an active investigation and so could not be turned over for Haussamen’s IPRA request.

Santa Fe New Mexican political reporter Steve Terrell wrote about not receiving any documents as well. The Secretary of State’s office used similar, if not identical excuses, as it did when rejecting Haussamen’s IPRA request.

Duran’s news came the same day that an opinion piece in Politico by constitutional law and election law professor at Loyola Law School outlined “the real victims” of voted ID laws.

The facts, however, say different. Most of these recent laws demand current, government-issued photo ID with an expiration date. Yet 11 percent of voting-age citizens do not have this sort of ID, according to reliable studies. The estimated impact on actual voters ranges from 1 percent to 12 percent, depending on the state. Even using the most conservative figure, this amounts to more than 1.6 million voters nationwide.

Some are hurt more than others by this. Roughly 18 percent of seniors don’t have the right ID. Only 5 percent of Anglo voters but at least 10 percent of African-American voters and 11 percent of Latino voters don’t have the right ID.

Previous investigations into widespread voter fraud have come up empty with incidents being few and far between in the state.

In 2009, Lamb helped catch one case of a realtor attempting to get an absentee ballot for her deceased brother. The same year an unrelated case involved a former judge from El Paso attempting to declare himself a resident of Sunland Park so he could run for a position as a judge there.

Gov. Susana Martinez campaigned on something that she called voter fraud but which could be more accurately described as a case of incompetence by a county clerk rather than any attempt at voter fraud.

“In all the years I have been doing this, I have never caught somebody trying to vote for a deceased person. It’s a terrible joke people make, but it doesn’t really happen,” Lamb told the New Mexican at the time. “In this case, we caught the attempt on the day it happened.”

The Very Latest on the ACLU’s Request for Documents in the Driver’s License Debate

By Tracy Dingmann

On March 16, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a public information request with the offices of Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran, asking for all records and correspondence related to Duran’s announcement on March 15 that her office had uncovered possible instances of voter fraud by foreign nationals.

The ACLU-NM said it made the Inspection of Public Records Act request in an attempt to ensure the transparency and objectivity of Duran’s investigation, which ostensibly involved Duran comparing a “database” of foreign nationals with driver’s licenses at the state Motor Vehicle Department with voter information housed with the Secretary of State.

The ACLU requested all records, documents and communication circulated between the Governor’s office and Duran’s office regarding alleged voter fraud or voting “irregularities” by foreign nationals –in essence – asking Duran and Martinez to provide proof of their alarming allegations that voter fraud in New Mexico is rampant.

Some Documents In; Some Not

On Wednesday (April 6,), ACLU-NM executive director Peter Simonson told Clearly New Mexico that he has received a packet of documents from the Secretary of State, but nothing yet from the Governor’s office.

The documents from Duran’s office are so redacted that they are essentially worthless, Simonson said.

Continue reading

ACLU Files Massive Public Info Request With Offices of Governor, SOS in Connection with ‘Voter Fraud’ Claim

By Tracy Dingmann

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a massive public information request for records from Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran in connection with Duran’s announcement that her office has uncovered possible instances of voter fraud by foreign nationals.

The request, filed today (March 16), is seeking all records and correspondence related to Duran’s announcement on March 15.

By making the requests, the ACLU-NM, said, it is seeking to ensure the transparency and objectivity of the Secretary of State’s investigation.

“We want to know the motivations behind this investigation and the validity of any assertions that the New Mexico law allowing drivers licenses for all immigrants contributed to voter fraud,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson.

“We take claims of voter fraud seriously because they undermine voter confidence in our electoral system and tend to discourage participation in elections. We also wish to ensure that any exchange of records in this investigation did not violate voter privacy guarantees that are written into state law.”

Continue reading

Former Candidate Targets Voters in District 21 Race

By Tracy Dingmann

Precinct judge Debbie Hunter says she’s writing up an affidavit for a formal complaint to file with the Secretary of State’s office over a man who stood outside the Manzano High School polling place questioning voters on Election Day.

A number of voters at the District 21 polling place complained that the man, who wore a shirt bearing the name of District 21 Republican candidate Antoinette Baca, had harassed and intimidated them as they arrived to vote throughout the day.

Baca is running against longtime Democratic incumbent Mimi Stewart.

Hunter and other precinct judges said the man identified himself as Howard De La Cruz Bancroft. Bancroft, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully against Stewart in 2008.

Continue reading

Voter Intimidation at Manzano High School

By Tracy Dingmann

Investigators from the Attorney General’s office responded to Manzano High School after voters told poll workers they felt intimidated and harassed by supporters of District 21 candidate Antoinette Baca outside the Precinct 550 polling place there today.

Albuquerque Police were also called at one point during the hours-long confrontation, which was still going on as of late this afternoon.

Precinct Judge Debbie Hunter, a Republican, said the trouble started at 6 a.m. when one of the Baca supporters “got up in my face” after she started removing Baca campaign signs he had placed inside the 100 foot “no campaigning” barrier.

He said, “Do you know it’s a 4th degree felony to damage campaign signs?” Hunter said.

“I said, `Do you know it’s inappropriate for you to have these signs within the 100-foot barrier?’”

Continue reading