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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Anne Kass Guest Blog: The NM Caucus & Privatized Elections

This is a guest blog by political activist and retired Second Judicial District Judge Anne Kass of Albuquerque:

Enough with the headlines and lead sentences about how embarrassing the Democratic "Caucus" was on February 5th. That so many voters were made to wait in long lines was shameful, but that was the result of not enough money and volunteers to provide an adequate number of voting sites. Not having enough money is a problem, but it's not an embarrassment. In truth, we did the best we could with the limited resources we had.

As for the headlines that continued during the week proclaiming that the outcome of the "Caucus" remained unknown, get a grip -- and lose the word "winner"! The election was not about winners or losers. The election was about how to apportion New Mexico's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. New Mexico is not a winner-take-all state.

We knew the outcome of the election before we went to bed Tuesday night. The outcome was, and is, that New Mexico Democrats are roughly evenly divided between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, and each one of them will receive delegates from New Mexico. 

What's With the Lists?
The really important story from this event has to do with the 17,000 provisional ballots. As someone who worked with provisional ballots at one of the polling places, it appeared to me that easily half of those made to vote provisionally were regular voters, at their correct polling place. Still their names did not appear on our list. Albuquerque Journal columnist Jim Belshaw reported that Judge William F. Lang was made to vote provisionally because his name did not appear on the list at his regular polling plase. A friend who worked at another site said their list had no names beginning with the letter "A." The big, and important, question -- and news story -- is: What's with the lists?

I only recently learned that Secretary of State, Mary Herrera has privatized or outsourced voter list maintenance to ES&S. As reported on Alternet:

"James Flores, representative for Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a Democrat. 'There is a (voter) rundown and it is accumulated by ES&S (Election Systems and Software).'"

I, and every Democrat I know, made it clear to Ms. Herrera, when she was asking for our votes, that privatization of our election process had to stop, which she promised she would do. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to learn that she broke her promise and has contracted with a corporation the name of which my mind instantly associates with the words "election fraud."

See this document prepared by VotersUnite.org if you're comfortable with ES&S having its mitts in our election process.

The Democratic Party should be spending its resources tracking down each one of those 17,000 provisional voters, first, to make sure their names DO appear on the lists for November, and then to find out why their names were not on the lists, or more to the point, who exactly is responsible for their names not being on the lists. If it's ES&S, they should be investigated. Whether ES&S is or is not responsible for the faulty lists, we need to stop privatizing our election process, period.

And to those quoted in the Albuquerque Journal who had harsh words for Democratic Party officials and the volunteers who worked the "Caucus," -- such as Mr. Andrew Mook who was reported to have said, "Why must we continue to suffer these vestiges of total incompetence?" or Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid who was reported to have said the caucus was a "major embarrassment" and that the Party didn't spend enough money to fund it; or Former County Commissioner Daymon Ely who was reported to have said, "What they did is political malpractice..." I say, next election, don't just go to vote -- volunteer to work for and contribute money to the Democratic Party (as opposed to a candidate) so the Party will have the resources to prevent the shameful consequence of voters being disillusioned by long lines and defective voter lists.

Oh yes, and just in case either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama dares to complain about the "Caucus" process, it would have been much wiser if, instead of sending their many volunteers to the polling sites to watch, they had sent them to the Party to work.

This is a guest blog by Anne Kass, who posts periodically on DFNM. Guest blogs provide our readers with an opportunity to express their opinions, and may or may not represent our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the page.

February 19, 2008 at 09:34 AM in 2008 Presidential Primary, Blogging by Anne Kass, Election Reform & Voting | Permalink


And Gov. Richardson had a lot of nerve complaining about it. It was done at his behest, to benefit his campaign (at the time), but he didn't send volunteers or money (from his Governor's campaign, which couldn't be used for his President's campaign anyway). And this is after his President's campaign had sucked up much of the money and volunteers that could have gone to the party.

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Feb 19, 2008 10:21:33 AM

How can anyone trust our voter registration rolls if ES&S is charged with maintaining it? I think I read that Mary Herrera doesn't have permission to see the thing or make any corrections. This doesn't seem to bother her.

Posted by: | Feb 19, 2008 11:43:52 AM

Anne- Thanks for saying what needed to be said.
Mary Herrera is every bit as incompetent as Rebecca Vigil-Giron.

Posted by: PlacitasRoy | Feb 19, 2008 8:37:45 PM

Thank you, the Very Honorable Judge Kass and the other writers who speak the truth. I suspected that the voter rolls were prepared by the neo-con corporation ES&S. Gov. Richardson's sleazy, disingenuous comments reminded me of Bill Clinton's "concern" about the harsh treatment and of Dr. Wen Ho Lee--who was Clinton's scapegoat--when Clinton could have stopped it at any moment.
Can we find out if the state gets to check the rolls?
Can DFNM take a stand against privatizing the lists and really make a stink about this? I'd be willing to work on this.

Posted by: nanceinnm | Feb 19, 2008 9:25:21 PM

There is no question that NM should sever all ties with ES&S. They have a long history of incompetence and systemic abuse of election laws.

I have spoken with members of Richardson's Election Reform Task Force who were very uncomfortable with the selection of ES&S optical scan machines (back when Vigil-Giron was SoS) because of the money that was being donated by ES&S to political campaigns. I've tried to locate how much money got to Richardson through ES&S, he signed off on the business partnership. There was also another individual, whom shall remain nameless at this point, who took it upon himself to 'seal the deal' with ES&S, despite protest from Election Reform Task Force members, and who has strong ties to Richardson's presidential campaign management. It's all very stinky, and whatever all of the facts were surrounding the ES&S negotiations, I hope some light is shed on them by people who know more than I.

ES&S involvement in NM elections is a prime example of why we need publicly financed campaigns.

Posted by: | Feb 20, 2008 3:41:15 AM

This makes me wonder about the accuracy of the entire system, including the lists of other parties, one of which I just used to contact our voters for our convention.

Why, after the mess of previous elections, and the suspicions of these corporations, does the state of NM contract with these people?

Makes me think that our SoS office should be completely non-partisan and transparent . . . and please do something about that website.

Posted by: Michal | Feb 25, 2008 9:01:09 PM

Sorry to ask but I had a very complex divorce related question, I live in AZ and my wife in NM and our daughters are in Albuquerque. You seem to be a very compassionate person in other blogs concerning children. Thank you

Posted by: Austin | Apr 5, 2008 3:59:02 AM

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