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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Big Win: NM Recount Law Declared Unconstitutional

According to an Associated Press article in the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico's 2005 vote recount law was declared unconstitutional in a unanimous decision yesterday by the NM Supreme Court. The law allowed the state canvassing board to require candidates requesting a recount to pay the estimated full cost of the recount up front as a deposit.

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik had filed suit when the NM Canvassing Board abruptly required them to pay more than $1 million up front if they wanted a presidential ballot recount in the 2004 election. Although they had already deposited $114,400, Cobb and Badnarik were suddenly informed they'd have to put up a deposit covering the entire cost, not just the smaller amount normally required by a state election law formula.

Later, in early 2005, the NM Legislature passed a law giving the canvassing board the specific right to require a deposit to cover the whole cost  of a recount. It was this law that was declared unconstitutional yesterday. In addition, the court said the canvassing board in 2004 had no authority to demand an estimated full cost of a recount in order to grant the request for one by Cobb and Badnarik.

The Canvassing Board that required the large deposit was made up of Governor Bill Richardson, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and then-NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Petra Maes. Since Justice Maes removed herself from the case, Richardson and Madrid made the decision to significantly raise the deposit requirement on their own.

According to the Journal article:

Richardson spokesman Jon Goldstein said, "All the state canvassing board was trying to do was protect the taxpayers from the costs of frivolous recount requests."

Cobb and Badnarik said they wanted a recount due to numerous reports of documented problems with voting machines and the counting of provisional ballots. Hardly "frivolous," these serious problems, most of which deducted votes from the Kerry column, may well have caused New Mexico's electoral votes to go to Bush. Bush won New Mexico with 49.8 percent of the vote, only 5,988 votes more than Kerry received. Because of the legal dispute over the cost, however, no recount ever occurred.

Also in the Journal article, John Boyd, the Albuquerque lawyer for Cobb and Badnarik, is quoted saying, "I think the canvassing board is going to have to apply the letter of the law in the future and that's important." You might say. Too bad that didn't happen with the requested 2004 recount.

Many Democrats here and around the nation were flabbergasted and angry when New Mexico's Democratic Governor, Bill Richardson, and Democratic Secretary of State, Rebecca Vigil-Giron, suddenly required the huge sum before they would permit a recount. Since it was well known that electronic voting machines were causing problems and that provisional ballots were being tossed left and right, it seemed unconscionable that two Democrats were putting outrageous barriers in the way of a recount in a race that was decided by around 5,000 votes. At least we know that will never happen again. Or at least we hope not.

If you want to retrace the history of posts on the requested recount and the lawsuit by Cobb and Badnarik, go to the Rollyo search tool on the upper right-hand side of the main page here, type in the word recount and select "search this blog."

Voter Action has a complete rundown on the numerous serious voting problems uncovered in New Mexico that pertain to the 2004 election.

May 17, 2006 at 04:57 PM in Local Politics | Permalink


This brings back bad memories of how Richardson and Vigil-Giron fought the recount tooth and nail. What was up with that? Kerry had a real chance to win this state and yet they took action that has been declared unconstitutional to stop the recount.

Posted by: I Vote | May 18, 2006 8:26:41 AM

It most likely came down to the cost of a re-count in dollars and cents.

Posted by: qofdisks | May 18, 2006 8:38:14 AM

That's a good excuse for taking unconstitutional action against a legal request for a recount accompanied by the proper deposit.

Maybe Richardson didn't want Kerry to win. It would ruin his 08 presidential run.

Posted by: El Norte | May 18, 2006 9:12:21 AM

So the court has ruled that the canvassing board decision made by Bill Richardson and Rebecca Vigil-Giron was wrong and unconstitutional. Doesn't this make them lawbreakers? How can they be allowed to get away with this without any punishment?

Posted by: Nmexdem | May 18, 2006 1:18:35 PM

If these two people are being investigated for malfeasance in the last election, then they should recuse themselves from the upcoming midterms. If a recount only cost $600,000, then from what well of numbers did Ms. Vigil-Giron come up with 1.4 million. Planning another cruise Madame Secretary? Who paid for the last one?, Who?

Posted by: tedbohne | Jul 31, 2006 5:01:51 PM