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?’”
A number of voters who came in after that complained that they felt harassed and “very threatened” by the man, who was running up to people as they exited their cars and asking people if they knew who they were voting for, Hunter said.
At 9 a.m., election troubleshooter Robert Schmidt of the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office told Clearly he was called to do a “string request” – in which election protection workers measure out a 100 foot perimeter.
After that, the man stayed behind the perimeter, said Schmidt. He added that he advised poll workers to avoid any confrontation with the man.
Around noon, though, a voter told poll workers he felt uncomfortable and harassed by the man and his questions, and said he wanted to file a police report, Hunter said.
APS police were called but said they needed to defer to APD, Hunter said. An APD officer came but let the man off with a warning, she said. The man remained outside the polling place, Hunter said.
At around 4 p.m. Attorney Generals office investigator Lois Kinch told Clearly she was called to the site to back up fellow AG investigator Melanie Carver, who was observing the situation. By that time, the unidentified man had been joined by several other people, all wearing Antoinette Baca shirts and asking questions of people exiting their cars.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Tuesday afternoon that she is aware of the incidents at Manzano and had requested police help from APD and APS police.
“We are actively managing the situation,” she said.