Inside the Capitol

Monday, November 14, 2011

11-16 Voter Fraud?

111611 suppression

SANTA FE – How much voter fraud do we have in New Mexico? Voter fraud stories are rampant. And fun to tell.
We hear of stuffed ballot boxes, boxes that disappear on their way to county clerks' offices, boxes that are found by county clerks just before tallies are finalized, fixed voting machines and dead men voting.
A favorite story told for years involves a statewide candidate in danger of losing an election, who calls a northern New Mexico county chairman and asks how many votes he has for him. And the chairman replies, "How many do you need?"
In Texas the favorite stories are about Lyndon Johnson. He won his first election by only a handful of votes, leading to the nickname Landside Lyndon.
Stories soon emerged that the night before the election Johnson was seen in the local cemetery copying names off gravestones. It became known as the night of the living dead.
The story was told that a young boy found wailing in the street the day after that election. He explained, "They told me my dead father came back to vote for Lyndon Johnson but he didn't come by to see me."
I recently read that the same story was told almost a century earlier following President Rutherford B. Hayes' suspicious victory over Democrat Samuel Tilden.
Later President Hayes played a role in trying to straighten out New Mexico political corruption. Upon learning of Gov. Samuel Axtell siding with the Santa Fe Ring in land and economic disputes, Hayes replaced Axtel with respected Gen. Lew Wallace.
Unfortunately Gov. Wallace was more interested in finishing his book, Ben Hur, so the trouble continued in Lincoln, Colfax and other counties.
Political corruption and voter fraud have been present since free elections began. Both parties have been guilty. Usually the party in power has been guiltier. That is likely why the focus has been on the Democratic Party for the past many years in New Mexico.
Control of the secretary of state's office by Democrats during the past 80 years didn't help reduce suspicions.
Last November's victory by Dianna Duran, a respected state senator and former Otero County clerk finally presented the opportunity for a close look at past practices.
Duran reported her concern to the 2011 Legislature that many people are illegally registered to vote and that some actually vote. That was followed by her request to the state police to look into 64,000 registrations in which there were inaccuracies.
She also told lawmakers in March that she had found 37 people who had obtained driver's licenses with foreign national credentials who had later registered to vote. She didn't know if any of those people had actually had voted.
This month we have gotten some updates. Two non-citizens have voluntarily reported to her office that they registered to vote. One said she had never voted.
The other said he has been voting regularly, thinking that would help him on his road to citizenship. He was surprised to learn he was breaking the law and seriously hurting his effort.
The following day Duran announced her office has found 641 deceased people on the state voter list. She didn't know if any of them voted. County clerks regularly check death notice s in the papers and delete those names from voter rolls.
Duran soon will be able to check voter rolls against lists of deaths from the Vital Records Office for an even better tally. She attributed the delay to lack of action by her predecessor and failure of the state's computer system to do the job it is supposed to do.
But even with those obstacles, it appears the secretary of state and county clerks are doing a bang up job of maintaining New Mexico's voter rolls containing over a million names.
And maybe we will find out that the unsuccessful efforts by the George W. Bush administration to dig up voter fraud mean there really isn't that much anymore.


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