Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Recount In New Mexico!!

50 States Mislead Their Voter Part 31: New Mexico

I'm very, very pleased to announce that David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party have filed for a recount of the presidential ballots cast in New Mexico and Nevada (VoteCobb.org). If you can afford to contribute money to this effort, please do so.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore won New Mexico by just 366 votes; it took nearly a month for New Mexico to finish counting the votes. In 2004, the wait wasn't quite as long; last week the state's official tally showed Bush beating Senator John Kerry by 5,988 votes. The delays are largely due to the large number of provisional ballots cast, and the manner in which they were counted (or not).

The unofficial (until they are audited) general election results listed on the Secretary of State's website (Sos.NM) show that 776,010 people voted in the election. Bush received 376,958 votes; Kerry got 370,930; and the third party candidates - Cobb, Peroutka, Badnarik and Nader - received a total of 8416 votes). What happened to the other 19,706 votes?

In 1996, 556,074 voters turned out for the presidential election (Clinton/Gore was declared the winner). In 2000, that number improved to 598,605. In 2004, the number skyrocketed to 756,304. Over four years that computes to an increase of just over 26%. Over eight years the increase is an astounding 36%.

On November 6, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron announced that there were 1,051,536 registered voters in the state (New Mexico's total population stands at 1,515,069), but that didn't include many newly registered voters whose registration forms weren't processed yet. "Among all New Mexico registered voters — including the old and new registrants — 51 percent are Democrats. Thirty-two percent are Republicans, and 14 percent chose no party." (ABQJournal.com).

As Greg Palast wrote in his November 4th article (Kerry Won), Republican elections officials were in control of areas that heavily populated by Hispanics and Native Americans: "Chaves County, in the "Little Texas" area of New Mexico, has a 44 percent Hispanic population, plus African Americans and Native Americans, yet George Bush "won" there 68 percent to 31 percent. I spoke with Chaves' Republican county clerk before the election, and he told me that this huge spoilage rate among Hispanics simply indicated that such people simply can't make up their minds on the choice of candidate for president."

Some conservative bloggers have criticized Mr. Palast for ignoring the fact that Bush also won by a wide margin in 2000. But, of course, that election should contain an asterisk, as well. So far, I haven't been able to find any Chaves County results for any prior elections in order to compare, but I'm still searching (I've read elsewhere that Bush won by a little bit over 5,000 votes over Dukakis in 1988, but I can't confirm that figure). Also, to be fair, Mr. Palast neglected to mention that Roswell in Chaves County is the heart of New Mexico oil country and that "royalties on oil production in Chaves County generate about $500 million in annual revenue for the State of New Mexico." (Roswell-online.com).

George Bush received 11,376 votes to Al Gore's 6,337 in the 2000 election (18,143 including the third party candidates). (Roswell-usa.com). In 2004 Chaves County, New Mexico recorded 14773 votes for Bush (68.1%)and 6726 votes for Kerry (31.0%) (including the third party candidates). (SOS.NM). This amounts to a vote increase of 19.6% for 2004. This is below the state rate of 26%, but the margin of victory of Bush over Gore compared to Bush over Kerry rose four percentage points, which is considerably more than it did for the entire state (.8%).

Four months ago, Chaves County Clerk David Kunko, a Republican, decided that he didn't agree with the Secretary of State's interpretation of a 2003 state law that requires some first-time voters to show identification at the polls: "If (a voter registration) form is not submitted in person by the applicant and the applicant is registering for the first time in New Mexico, the applicant must submit with the form a copy of a current and valid photo identification, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the applicant; and if the applicant does not submit the required identification, he will be required to do so when he votes in person or absentee." (ABQtrib.com).

While Mr. Kunko interpreted "in person" as meaning directly to the county clerk's office, Secretary of State Vigil-Giron argued that it meant anyone not registering by mail, including those who register in front of a person at a DMV, welfare office or mall. Initially, a Democratic judge in Bernalillo County ruled against Mr. Kunko's broad interpretation, but a couple of Republican judges in Chaves and Otero County took his side. Finally, the New Mexico Supreme Court concurred with the Secretary of State's opinion in a 4-1 decision - just five days before the start of absentee ballot voting - ruling that the legislature "intended to require identification only for first-time registrants who register by mail." (WashingtonTimes).

On September 23rd of 2003, a special election took place in New Mexico that involved a proposed constitutional amendment to boost the annual distribution from the Permanent School Fund to five percent to help fund education reform in public schools. The next day, the initial election results showed that it was defeated by only 23 votes. But there were problems with the count: In Chaves County, officials added the results of more than 400 votes from a voting machine used to read absentee ballots Wednesday morning after discovering they had left out those results from a vote tally Tuesday. Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko described the mistake as a "human error." (ABQjournal). The amendment ended up passing by 195 votes; Chaves County recorded 1925 votes for it and 4084 against. (Sos.state.nm.us).

Out of 12,000 provisional and in-lieu-of paper ballots cast in Bernalillo County, nearly half were rejected; most because the prospective voter wasn't registered to vote anywhere in the county, but hundreds of provisional ballots were rejected due to minor discrepancies: "A Democratic attorney and an election volunteer for the party said workers disqualified hundreds of provisional ballots cast in Bernalillo County because of names that had a missing middle initial or some other minor discrepancy. They urged commissioners to reconsider the rejection of those ballots, if they could. The commissioners, however, said they didn't have authority to question the qualification of provisional ballots. They voted 3-0 in favor of certifying the Nov. 2 election results, which were sent to the Secretary of State's Office." (ABQJournal.com).

Bernalillo Country Clerk Mary Herrera claimed that in one batch of provisional ballots all of the disqualified ballots were Democrat and those that qualified were Republican. "The main reason for disqualifying them, she said, was because an affidavit testifying to the voter's identity, which is supposed to be signed by a presiding judge, was not in the outer of two envelopes that are supposed to be turned in to election workers. That rule was prescribed by New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron." (ABQtrib.com).

Two months before the election, Republican U.S. Attorney David Iglesias formed a task force — involving the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the secretary of state's office — to investigate and prosecute suspected cases of election fraud (ABQpubco.com). "The New Mexico probe was launched in part at the request of Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who chairs the county's Bush-Cheney campaign." (Washington Post). "When they brought me on, it was plain and simple: They said, `We need to win Bernalillo County,'" said Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who is helping coordinate Bush's campaign here. (ABQtrib.com). In April 2004, Sheriff White was added to the National Bush-Cheney '04 First Responders Leadership Team. "The Bush-Cheney '04 National First Responders Leadership Team will help build a nationwide network of grassroots support for the President and help communicate his commitment to homeland security and his record of achievement for America's first responders." (Forrelease.com).

Sheriff White also attended the 2004 Republican National Convention as a GOP delegate. While in New York City, the delegates took in a Broadway show and a tour of the Fox News studios (FreeNewMexican.com). Sheriff White also received the honor of being one of the 10 delegates selected to officially inform President Bush of his selection as the official Republican nominee for President. (FreeNewMexican.com).

In July of 2004, Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics in New Mexico were barred from registering new voters. Ronald C. Wood, executive officer of the federal program's regional Navajo office, advised his hospital and clinic directors in an e-mail: "There have been recent questions about whether we can do nonpartisan voter registration drives in our IHS facilities during non- duty hours. The guidance from HQs staff is that we should not allow voter registration in our facilities or on federal property." The Washington Post's Jo Becker reported that "[s]everal of those involved in the registration effort questioned what they saw as a double standard, given that the federal government encourages registration on military bases, where voters traditionally have favored Republicans." (IndyMediaTV).

In Sandoval County, Santo Domingo Pueblo Governor Sisto Quintana shut the polls a half-hour after they opened on Election Day, in order to observe All Souls Day, before re-opening them at 5 p.m. "The pueblo was closed for the feast and no outsiders were allowed on the pueblo," Quintana said. "I don't have to explain any more. Maybe next time, they should pick another site so it doesn't interfere." Three election observers from the U.S. Department of Justice were also asked to leave. (ABQjournal.com).


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