Inside the Capitol

Sunday, June 11, 2006

6-16 Election Wrap Up

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Another reason given for low voter turnout in last week's primary election is the massive mix-up in voter identification cards.
In response to pressure from Republican leaders and the general public, the 2005 Legislature passed a watered down voter identification bill that required the secretary of state to issue all registered voters an identification card.
It isn't necessary to present the card in order to vote. It's just handy in case you don't have any other way of proving who you are. The cost of mailing all those cards is said to be $1 million.
The cards were supposed to be mailed in March, but Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron says she didn't get information from county clerks soon enough and that much of it was wrong.
Addresses are the biggest problem. People move and don't notify the county clerk. One of the voter fraud allegations often is that large numbers of people are registered at the same address.
Usually it is an apartment. If that apartment has new renters every few years, it is certainly possible that all of them may be registered at that address.
So when the secretary of state's office mailed out the first batch of voter identification cards shortly before the primary election, 60,000 of them went to wrong addresses. There also were other inaccuracies, such as birth date, gender and political affiliation.
Some county clerks are saying they got their info in on time and correctly and that voters thought they had to have a card in order to vote. Since most registered voters did not have cards by election day, they didn't vote.
This column isn't going to get involved in the battle between county clerks and the secretary of state. But we will venture an opinion on the lack of voter cards depressing turnout.
Most voters didn't even know they were supposed to receive a card.
One loyal reader called to note that the unofficial results posted on the secretary of state's Web site indicated that tens of thousands of Bernalillo County voters signed in to vote, but didn't, while thousands of voters in Chaves and other counties appear to have voted more than once.
As this is being written, the secretary of state's Web site is down. Maybe that is what is being corrected. Let's hope, at least, that it is corrected by the date the returns are finalized.
We had to wait awhile to find out results of the Democratic squeaker between two former state land commissioners. Jim Baca ended up prevailing by a 51-49 margin over Ray Powell.
Either candidate would have had a tough time against the Republican incumbent Patrick Lyons. Lyons is reported to have said he prefers to be challenged by Baca because Baca is to the left of Powell.
Baca is sure to have his hands full with the well-financed Lyons, but Baca has been in such positions before. This time, he may get an extra boost from Gov. Bill Richardson, who has clashed with Lyons on several issues during the past four years.
Richardson may also have performed a huge favor for Baca in the primary election, when he gave a job to another Hispanic hopeful, who dropped out of the race when Baca got in.
Politicians have debated for decades about whether ethnicity is a factor in campaigns. Now, a survey by the leading New Mexico polling firm has found that when New Mexico voters have little information about a race, 78 percent will vote along ethnic lines.
Powell and attorney general candidate Gary King were not favorites of Gov. Richardson in this primary. Both Powell and King tried to run for governor in 2002, but were kept off the ballot by Richardson at the preprimary nominating convention.
It didn't make Powell or King very happy, but Richardson seemed to be the most upset. Apparently he was miffed that any Democrat would challenge him.
FRI, 6-16-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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