Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Secretary of State is Engaged in Campaign to Undermine Public Confidence in NM Elections
Following is a press release by Common Cause New Mexico, questioning the Secretary of States motives within her latest voter file interim report.
Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) warns that Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s manner of conducting a review of New Mexico’s voter file seems to reflect a disturbing partisan bias. The organization’s comments follow Duran’s public release of a 17-page interim report about the process.
While CCNM lauds her efforts to clean up New Mexico’s voter file and agrees that this is a legitimate function of the Secretary of State’s office, CCNM believes that she is deliberately undermining public trust in New Mexico elections purely to promote policies, such as voter photo ID, which are designed to prevent qualified New Mexicans from casting a ballot.
“The way she’s gone about this secretive process is completely bizarre,” says Steven Robert Allen, executive director of CCNM. “The report is yet another example in which Secretary Duran consistently paints New Mexico elections as a hotbed of problems, while refusing to provide documentation to back up her assertions. This doesn’t make any sense unless she’s trying to deliberately stir up fear among both decision-makers and the general public to advance her own political agenda.”
Allen points out that the Secretary of State first launched her media campaign in March of this year while advocating for a burdensome new voter ID law. Voting rights advocates believe that such a law would have the effect of disenfranchising thousands of legitimate New Mexico voters, in particular among senior, student, Native American, Hispanic and low-income populations. Since March, Duran has repeatedly kept the public and voters in the dark about the methodology she’s using to conduct the review.
“This seems to be part of a national effort to suppress voter turnout,” Allen says, “which has been popping up most often in swing states like New Mexico. The goal is to pass laws specifically designed to disenfranchise qualified voters in the run-up to a major election year.”
Allen notes that the Colorado Secretary of State launched a similar media campaign within days of Secretary Duran.
In the recent ‘interim’ report, Duran fills numerous pages insisting that she has been engaged in a valid, objective, non-partisan process. CCNM believes that if this were so, she would have launched her media campaign after her office attempted to resolve discrepancies in the voter file by working directly with county election officials. The fact that she has to this date failed to take this obvious step – instead choosing to actually attack the integrity of some of these same county election officials – makes her actions and motivations highly suspect, at best.
New Mexico has had numerous problems with its Secretaries of State in recent years. CCNM believes New Mexico desperately deserves a chief election official who is willing and able to conduct herself in a manner that protects the rights of all qualified New Mexicans to cast a ballot.
CCNM urges Secretary Duran to abandon her partisan media campaign and get down to the serious business of preparing the state for the important election year ahead.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Stephanie DuBois Guest Blog: Many Concerns About Today's Dem Party
I am a 65-year-old Democrat and activist and have been for many years. I am presently the CD2 vice-chair for the State Democratic Party, my 5th term. I am a dog groomer and trainer. I am a certified mediator for Magistrate Court,volunteer. I have run for various offices unsuccessfully, but at least I made sure a Democrat was running. I am an American, a patriot and the daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor.
I moved to Deming, New Mexico in 1978. I now live in Tularosa and have for 21 years. I had always been involved in politics in one way or another in my native state of New York -- not New York City but Long Island -- specifically, a town called Miller Place, three miles east of Port Jefferson where the ferry went to Bridgeport, Connecticut.
My parents and grandparents were Democrats and, at age 21, I registered as a Democrat as well. I have been a registered Democrat ever since. I have voted in any and all elections where I was eligible to vote -- school, county, city, etc. I have now lived in New Mexico for 33 years.
Ladies and gentlemen I don't know about you, but I am very concerned about our state and our state politics and the direction we are headed.
My county of Otero was pretty much Democratic when I moved here in 1990. Within what seemed to be overnight, we became and still are totally Republican and we now have the unsolicited voice of the bogus "tea party." To be fair, I do like the fact that they question their elected officials. They even go so far to give them ultimatums to make sure they carry out the tea party agenda. When the tea party demonstrates, they make sure to wear or carry a firearm to punctuate their position.
I have many concerns regarding voting, redistricting and the protection and security of our public records -- which should be just that, public. We, as Democrats (and I am talking about real Democrats -- not those who use the Democratic Party for their own personal gain but then embrace Republican philosophies and values), should be watching out for the good of our Party. I think our Party -- the Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton -- has been infiltrated by moles, Republicans pretending to be Democrats who undermine our Party from within. Are there any real Democrats who will defend our values, civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, etc. out there now?
A couple of things are happening that really scare me -- and I don't scare easily.
Senator Rod Adair: Conflict of Interest
One is the acceptance by Democrats of a situation that allows a state senator to form a consulting company that bids on county contracts to draw their county lines as part of redistricting. He has received, just from two counties that I know of to date, $34,000. However, no one feels this is a conflict of interest.
Senator Rod Adair (R-Roswell), the senator in question, has also garnered contracts from at least two other counties that I know of. When questions about a possible conflict of interest were raised, the answer I saw was, it is a citizen legislature there are bound to be conflicts of interest because the legislators all have jobs outside of their elected positions. That quote was from Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who was a state senator working in the Otero County clerk's office for many years.
Dianna Duran: Answer These Questions
Now today, as Secretary of State, Duran has the power to turn 64,000 voter files over to the State Police to investigate possible voter fraud. She has by-passed the county clerks' offices as the most obvious place to check voter records and not cost tax payers any additional monies. The Democrats have not questioned the impact this will have on us the taxpayers and citizens of New Mexico.
Questions that should be asked include: Are these documents protected? Are they secure? Is your or my name among those documents under investigation? I think we, the people, have a right to know. The only information on a voter card that is not for public knowledge is the person's birth date and phone number. Everything else is public.
Dems Need to Speak Out Publicly
The office of Secretary of State is very powerful, as we found out in the selection of George W. Bush in the Bush/Gore election in Florida. Katherine Harris had a great deal of influence over that election and the eventual outcome with Bush being selected. We don't ever want this Secretary of State to have that kind of influential power.
In states across the country where governors are Republican and Republicans control the secretary of state offices, there is a movement to make sure that minorities and Democrats generally have a much more difficult time voting. In these states they are instituting things like shortening the time you can register to vote and requiring picture ID. Some of these over-the-top requirements are akin to the old Jim Crow laws that were in effect requiring a poll tax for African Americans who wanted to vote.
We, as Democrats in New Mexico, need to stand together and speak out strongly to make sure that this Secretary of State is not going to run over our elections and make rules that will keep even one person from being able to vote. We can't do that by remaining silent.
I think we need press conferences letting the public know that the Democratic Party is not going to stand quietly by while Republicans and "tea baggers" take our rights away from us -- rights that our fathers and grandfathers thought they were fighting for. I think we should demonstrate in front of the Secretary of State's office and the Governor's office and let them know in no uncertain terms we are not going to stand for them messing with our voting rights.
We are Americans. We are patriots. We won't be silenced!
This is a guest blog by Stephanie L. DuBois. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.
August 3, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Democratic Party, Dianna Duran, Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2011, NM Secretary of State, Otero County, Redistricting, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (3)
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
ACLU-NM Sues Secretary of State Dianna Duran for Violating Open Records Law
Gov. Susana Martinez and her GOP cohorts in New Mexico -- like Secretary of State Dianna Duran -- seem to really get off on talking a good game about the importance of government transparency, but all too often they don't follow their own advice about how an open government should operate. Is "transparency" just another handy buzzword to use within their never-ending campaign mode that seems to be a continuing substitute for actually governing the state and working to solve the myriad of genuine problems we face? Sure seems like it.
One more example of their hypocrisy: Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) filed a lawsuit in the Second Judicial District Court against Secretary of State Dianna Duran, alleging that she violated open records law by concealing public information regarding alleged voting irregularities. On March 15, 2011, as the legislature debated controversial voter ID legislation, Duran announced her office had uncovered proof that 37 undocumented immigrants cast ballots in New Mexico elections.
The following day, the ACLU-NM filed an Information and Public Records Act (IPRA) request to independently verify these serious allegations. Duran’s office unlawfully concealed many of the requested documents, claiming “executive privilege,” and redacted many emails so heavily that they were rendered useless.
“These sorts of hit-and-run allegations are reckless and irresponsible,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Without offering any proof, the Secretary of State has undermined the public’s confidence in our elections system while hiding the evidence for her claims behind the cloak of executive privilege.”
On rare occasions and under narrowly defined circumstances, government officials are permitted to withhold some types of information under “executive privilege,” according to the ACLU-NM. However, in recent years officials have abused executive privilege, using it to conceal public information that could prove embarrassing or politically inconvenient. In her first executive order as governor, Susana Martinez severely limited the use of executive privilege, proclaiming that “access to public information should be the rule, and denial thereof the exception…”
Duran made the exception the rule, making liberal use of executive privilege to withhold public voting records and official correspondence from the ACLU-NM and several journalists. In a response to journalist Heath Haussamen’s attempt to acquire these same records, the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Department affirmed Duran’s improper use of executive privilege, stating:
“We should be clear it is our understanding that these same emails were requested from the Secretary of State and they chose to assert executive privilege over some or all parts of these emails. The Department does not feel executive privilege can be asserted, or would appropriately apply over these emails.”
“It is disappointing that our Secretary of State would go to such extraordinary lengths to hide important public records from New Mexicans,” said ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Alexandra Freedman Smith. “Governor Martinez promised that her administration would usher in a new era of openness and transparency in New Mexico government. It’s a shame that Diana Duran does not share the governor’s commitment.”
Staff Attorney Alexandra Freedman Smith, Co-Legal Director Maureen Sanders and Cooperating Attorney Ed Macy represent the ACLU of New Mexico in this case.
A full copy of the ACLU-NM legal complaint against is available online: ACLU v. Duran
Where's the Beef, Dianna?
This past Friday, SOS Duran was grilled by members of the legislature's Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee about her allegations that she had "proof" that 37 undocumented New Mexicans fraudulently cast ballots in elections in the state. She was also confronted about her decision to turn over 64,000 names of people she characterized as potentially fraudulent voters to the Department of Public Safety with the implication that criminal acts had been committed.
Duran suddenly claimed she wasn't really looking for "voter fraud" in these instances, but merely trying to make sure New Mexico's voter rolls were accurate. This despite her numerous accusatory statements in the past clearly claiming she had uncovered extensive "voter fraud" -- especially among New Mexico's immigrant population.
Of course if Duran were really trying to find the facts -- instead of using the same dog-whistle tactics employed by Gov. Martinez to rile up the right-wing tea party crowd about those nasty immigrants -- she would be all for revealing the "proof" she has cited -- as well as using the expertise of the state's county clerks to get at the truth. Instead she seems determined to drag her feet as long as possible so she can keep nurturing wedge issue angst without having to show the public any real evidence to back up what she is alleging. As is often the case, her lies are now turning back on themselves to the point that she seems to be backtracking on her VOTER FRAUD! claims. Has she lied herself into a corner?
Even the right-wingers on the Albuquerque Journal editorial board are incensed over her behavior. In an editorial published this past Sunday, the board took Duran to task in no uncertain terms for her refusal to turn over documents the public has a right to see unless they are "redacted" to the point of nothingness.
Duran has surely heard the well-worn phrase “seeing is believing.” And seeing her office redact line after line after line in letter after letter in her investigation of irregularities in voter files does not position her in the eyes of the public as the champion of transparency she claimed to be while campaigning.
... Duran’s office claims releasing the information now “will compromise the Secretary of State’s decision-making process.” She says she will release some of it after her investigation is complete. That’s not executive privilege; that’s situational censorship [emphasis added].
It's long past the time that SOS Duran should be showing us the "beef" to back up her claims, or admitting she basically made the whole thing up to score political points. Let's hope that the ACLU-NM complaint can pry some of the documents in question out of Duran's office so that at least some of facts in this matter can see the light of day.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Dianna Duran Presentation on Voter Registration Investigation Set for 9AM Friday Before Courts, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee
New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran is still withholding information related to her "investigation" of 64,000 cases of possible "voter faud" -- claiming "temporary" executive privilege allows her to continue to withhold the release of the information to the public. The investigation, such that it is, involves comparing voter registration rolls with Moter Vehicle Division and Social Security records to find errors that may indicate illegal voter registrations. The State Police have been changed with conducting criminal investigations on any suspicious records that turn up.
As a number of county clerks and others have pointed out, such a list comparison is likely to produce numerous instances of minor differences due to things like voters using slightly different names to register to vote and register their cars, or innocent errors caused by data entry mistakes, etc. Duran, however, has continually suggested that she's dug up proof that there are tens of thousands of illegal registered voters -- and of course she just happens to believe they are probably nasty "illegal aliens" who are abusing the system. Their real aim is to suppress voting, especially by minorities.
Right. Goes right along with Governor Susana Martinez's eternal media campaign using immigration as a wedge issue to rile up voters and give her an opportunity to act tough, like an ex-prosecutor should. Making "voter fraud" accusations has become a jaded tradition within right-wing political circles despite that fact no real evidence of widespread abuse of the registration system has ever been found.
Criticism from Open Government Leader
As reported in the Albuquerque Journal, Duran is getting some blow back on her "temporary" executive privilege claim from a highly respected open government group:
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government executive director Sarah Welsh said Monday that a temporary withholding of information goes against the purpose of executive privilege, which allows officials to withhold records relating to the formulation of public policy within an agency to protect candid assessments from top advisers.
If the exception is meant to protect advisers who need to give honest advice on how to proceed without fear of appearing in the news media, then executive privilege redactions should be permanent, she said.
“The bottom line is that information delayed is information denied,” Welsh said.
Duran has exercised what she claims is executive privilege by redacting, or blacking out, large portions of the correspondence about the investigation released to the Journal as the result of an Inspection of Public Records request. As the Journal article notes, the redactions were extensive, including most of many emails between Duran’s staff and officials of the state Taxation and Revenue Department.
Time to Grill the SOS
Duran is scheduled to appear before the the Interim Courts, Corrections and Justice legislative committee this Friday in Albuquerque to make a presentation on this issue. The meeting will be held at 9:00 AM on July 15, at the Probation Services Office of the Children, Youth and Families Department, located at 1031 Lamberton Place NE. The public is welcome to attend, and can comment during time reserved at the end of the meeting (see agenda).
Let's hope that legislators and the public put the pressure on Duran during the hearing to get some basic questions answered about her dubious investigation. For instance,
- SOS Duran made a significant push before the House Voters and Elections Committee during this year's legislative session claiming that she had evidence that NM elections have been compromised. She claimed to have evidence of 37 undocumented immigrants voting illegally. Where does this case stand? Can she substantiate these claims? Where is the transparency?
- Why has the 64,000 turned into a criminal investigation when she claims this is an administrative issue?
- Why have the county clerks been excluded from this effort?
- Is it an efficient use of state resources for DPS to investigate this case?
Duran keeps making rather wild-eyed claims about uncovering nefarious registration behavior on the part of undocumented immigrants, but has never revealed the supportive documentation she has allegedly uncovered in the course of what often appears to be nothing more than a witch hunt. Lots of buzz-word talk, but few facts to back it all up.
In reference to the Secretary of State’s upcoming testimony, Senator Peter Wirth stated, “The committee is very interested in hearing the legal basis for the Secretary of State’s decision to engage the State Police in election matters and why she believes New Mexico has been violating federal election law.”
It's about time Duran was required to release the information about the investigation that she has no legal right to keep secret, as well as provide truthful answers about how and why the investigation is being conducted. After all, the Martinez administration has touted its dedication to transparency and open government -- so let's see some of that happening in terms of this "voter fraud" debacle.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Stephen Jones: Carry on the Fight for Voting Rights
This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
A few hours after President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to pass comprehensive Civil Rights legislation in 1963, Medgar Evers, the field secretary of the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, was gunned down outside his home in Jackson, that state's capital city, the victim of a racist assassin. Evers died with his pockets filled with voter registration applications, soaked with the fallen civil rights leader's blood. A combat veteran who fought in France and Germany during World War II, Medgar Evers was buried a few days after he was murdered, on June 19, 1963, forty-eight years ago this coming Sunday, with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.
In 1963 Medgar Evers paid the ultimate price for demanding the fundamental right guaranteed every citizen, everywhere; the right to register and vote. Today, less than half a century later, that basic democratic right of all citizens, eighteen years of age and older, under law, is under attack once again, here in New Mexico and across the United States. From the proposed legislation that would require voters to produce photo identification at the polls that is cropping up in many states across the country, including our own, to the proposal by Wisconsin's extremist governor, Scott Walker, to strip college students of their right to the ballot box, attempts to disenfranchise average Americans has reached a level that hasn't been seen since Medgar Evers' time.
A GOP Pattern of Minority Voter Suppression
Newt Gingrich, a Republican aspirant for the White House and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has shamefully called for the return of poll tests, a practice made illegal by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Due to historical patterns of illegal voter suppression in the Jim Crow era, including phony "literacy" and other so-called ballot access tests, the 1965 landmark legislation outlawed such practices, nationally. Two of our neighboring states, Texas and Arizona, remain under special provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require those states to "pre-clear" any state legislative attempt to change "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting" by the Federal Justice Department and a three-judge panel of the District Court of the District of Columbia.
Only a few years ago, under the cynical and corrupt leadership of Karl Rove and others, the GOP sought to politicize U.S. Attorney's offices in a number of states, including in New Mexico, alleging that those federal attorneys were failing to bring prosecutions over a pattern of "voter fraud" that didn't exist. The Rove assault was a brazen attempt to specifically suppress the votes of Hispanic and African American citizens.
Despite Rove's departure, the GOP continues to engage in an ongoing pattern of voter suppression and intimidation, resulting in numerous prosecutions of local Republican leaders around the nation for their attacks on citizenship rights. Notoriously in Florida, African American voters were denied their right to vote when GOP officials wrongly, and illegally, challenged voters off the registration rolls as "former felons." The criminal challenges were made not on evidence -- no such evidence existed -- but rather by broadly cherry-picking voters off the rolls through the use of computer modeling, targeting specific classes of voters by neighborhood demographics, by age and by ethnic surname.
Duran, Martinez Try Suppression
Attempting to pass a voter suppression bill in the New Mexico Legislature earlier this year, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Governor Susana Martinez claimed evidence of thirty-seven illegal voter registrations. Evidence to back up the claim vanished when the bill died in the legislature. Undeterred, Duran has subsequently flagged 64,000 New Mexicans, more than five percent of our registered voters and over ten percent of the citizens who cast votes in last year's general election, to be "investigated" by state police.
Remember Sacrifices, Fight Back
The right of citizens to register and vote is sacrosanct. Voter suppression and intimidation is un-American. Efforts to return to a time when many of us were stripped of our central right to engage in democratic decision-making must be turned back, and we all need to be alert to the present danger. We need to act to protect that fundamental right which belongs to all of us. Forty-eight years after Medgar Evers was laid to rest for standing up for that basic right of citizenship, the right to vote, we need to remember the sacrifices of those who worked and sacrificed to guarantee access to the ballot and the voting booth, and carry on their fight.
To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
June 16, 2011 at 07:04 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Civil Liberties, Dianna Duran, Election Reform & Voting, Minority Issues, Republican Party, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (5)
Thursday, March 31, 2011
More Trouble for SOS Dianna Duran? AG Office Disagrees With Her Opinion on Susana Martinez Radio Ads
Uh oh -- another incident questioning the judgment of New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran came to light today via Attorney General Gary King's office. Close on the heels of today's call for Duran to immediately resign her post due to racist "humor" contained on an official document issued by her office, it was revealed that AG's office issued a letter disagreeing with Duran's decision that anti-immigrant radio ads paid for by Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign office were a proper use of the funds.
According to a story by Steve Terrell in today's Santa Fe New Mexican, the AG's office said yesterday that "Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign committee might have violated campaign laws by spending money on radio ads in support of a bill to prohibit driver's licenses for illegal immigrants."
In a letter to Secretary of State Dianna Duran, Albert Lama, deputy attorney general, said Duran's office should reconsider its decision that the Martinez ads were not in violation of the Campaign Reporting Act."Although you did not seek our advice in this matter, we are concerned that your interpretation of the Campaign Reporting Act is unnecessarily broad and may open the door to use of campaign contributions contrary to the Legislature's intent," Lama wrote.
Last month, both Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Common Cause New Mexico raised serious questions about the use of Martinez's campaign fund for the ads, contending that the governor violated campaign finance laws by tapping into the fund after her campaign had ended. Somos Un Pueblo Unido filed a formal complaint about the funding with Duran's office. Duran later said the use of the funds was proper, although she failed to consult with the Attorney General's office before issuing her decision letter.
On March 3, Duran wrote Somos, saying, "Susana Martinez meets the definition of a 'candidate' who has authorized her campaign committee to make expenditures for the purpose of seeking future election to office. ... I have no reasonable belief that Susana Martinez for Governor Committee committed any violation of the Campaign Reporting Act, and I do not intend to refer this matter to the Attorney General or a District Attorney."
Martinez's campaign committee spent $5,648 in February on radio ads that urged listeners to contact legislators and tell them to support bills aimed at repealing the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented people and foreign nationals. Despite a big push from the Martinez administration -- and her staffers videoing debates on the issue in an apparent attempt to gather footage that could be used against Democrats in the 2012 election -- repeal of the law failed.
Lama and Martinez Campaign Disagree
In yesterday's letter to Duran:
... Lama argued that the act requires campaign money to be spent on campaign-related expenses. "Based on the information available to us at this time, the content of the radio ads does not obviously relate to a campaign or suggest that the purpose of the ads is to elect Gov. Martinez to office," he wrote. "The circumstances and the timing of the ads also are not consistent with an election campaign," he said, noting that the next gubernatorial election is in 2014."
Instead, the radio ads seek to influence the Legislature's decision regarding laws that make driver's licenses available to illegal immigrants," Lama wrote. "In effect the committee is using campaign contributions to lobby the Legislature on an issue that is important to the governor and her administration."
Lama said the act "clearly distinguishes" campaign expenses from an elected official using money in promoting positions they take while in office or trying to influence the Legislature.
In a response to Lama's letter, a spokesman for the Martinez campaign said Duran's decision on the funding was the right one because the governor was merely exercising her First Amendment rights with the ads.
"Just like other groups and political parties that aired ads during the session, the governor has a First Amendment right to promote ideas and issues, including her desire to ban driver's licenses for illegal immigrants," Danny Diaz said. "The secretary of state has ruled this was perfectly fine, which is consistent not only with common practice, but more importantly, with the opinion of the United States Supreme Court."
He was referring to a 1976 case, Buckley v. Valeo, which, among other things, struck down limits on campaign expenditures in federal law.
What Does the Law Say?
Click to see the provisions (pdf) of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act describing the lawful uses of a candidate’s campaign funds.
As Somos Un Pueblo Unidos pointed out in their complaint to Duran's office:
"(The act) allows such funds to be used only for the payment of campaign debts, donations to charities or the state's general fund, contributions to other candidates or political parties and refunds to the contributors."
Is Dianna Duran just misinterpreting the law, or is this another example of Martinez and her right-wingers putting politics above ethical practices and the law? Seems pretty clear to me that campaign funds are supposed to be used for campaign activities -- not for lobbying the legislature. What do you think?
(Updates) New Mexico PAC Calls for Immediate Resignation of SOS Dianna Duran for Racist "Humor"
Update 2: The AP reports that SOS Dianna Duran has placed a state employee who works in her office on leave in response to this controversy, and has issued a statement saying the racist "humor" was "deeply offensive" toward two African-American legislators. Duran also said she "will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry." Still unanswered are the questions of why a staffer in Duran's office would feel comfortable putting demeaning language on a state form, and why nobody caught it before it was posted online and sent out in the mail to political action committees around the state.
Update 1: Since I published this post, the Secretary of State's website has taken down the offending spreadsheet. Here is a pdf of the original document that resided on the site, as noted below.
Is this Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran's macaca moment?
Today, the New Mexico-based Justice League PAC called for the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Dianna Duran for racist jokes aimed at two African-American legislators in her political reporting form required of all New Mexico political committees.
The Justice League PAC says it received a packet in the mail yesterday from Duran’s office with instructions for filing the bi-annual campaign report for state political committees, due April 11, 2011. The packet contained instructions to download an Excel spreadsheet from the Secretary of State’s website (http://www.sos.state.nm.us/sos-pacs.html then click “2011 PAC Filing Form for April 11, 2011 Report”).
The Excel spreadsheet (xls) contains the following racist language in the “Monetary Contrubutions” (sic) tab, targeting African-American state legislators Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque 19) and Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-Albuquerque 44):
National Organization of the Beer Drinkers and Guzzlers
“Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson” is obviously a merger of the names of the aforementioned African-American legislators and “JeffersonDavis” was the President of the Confederated States of America.
Commenting on the insulting characterizations and languge in the spreadsheet, Justice League PAC Treasurer Eli Il Yong Lee said, “I was shocked when I downloaded Secretary Duran’s spreadsheet this morning to find such racist comments on a State document. Secretary Duran should be ashamed of herself. We expect more from elected officials. There is no place for racism in New Mexico, much less in a state office. She should resign immediately.”
An Emerging Pattern of Wedge-Issue Bigotry?
We're in only the third month of Secretary of State Duran's first term and she has already been heavily criticized and challenged on her announcement late in the just-ended legislative session that she had started comparing driver's license lists provided by Gov. Susana Martinez with voter rolls, and claimed she had already found examples of possible voter fraud by undocumented immigrants. Nothing to back up that claim, of course, but it served to once again call attention to the immigrant wedge issue and another right-wing favorite, "voter fraud" -- both of which have been used extensively during the campaigns of Duran and Gov. Susana Martinez and beyond.
Duran's unsubstantiated claims even prompted the ACLU NM to file a massive document request so they can investigate what's really going on related to Duran's statements. The Bernalillo County Clerk's office filed a similar document request.
By emphasizing hot-button ethnic-racial and immigrant issues like driver's licenses for foreign nationals, the targeting of immigrants by law enforcement and immigrant "voter fraud," the Martinez administration, Republicans in the legislature and the Secretary of State's office have clearly helped to create a racially and ethnically charged negative atmosphere in the state. Local right-wing radio talk shows have featured invective-filled "discussions" about immigrants, Democratic lawmakers have reported receiving large numbers of phone and email messages containing hate speech and threats in response to their refusal to support the repeal of driver's licenses for foreign nationals -- and now this.
Clearly, at least some of the staff in the Secretary of State's office have picked up on the atmosphere of bigotry unleashed in New Mexico by the political maneuvering of Dianna Duran herself and other right-wing politicos, and thought it was funny -- and acceptable -- to inject racial insults into an official document issued by the office. Especially in a multi-ethnic state like New Mexico, it's horrible to encounter something this offensive and unconscionable emerging from a government office.
Call for Duran's Resignation
I believe all New Mexicans of conscience should join in the call for Dianna Duran to immediately tender her resignation and apologize for the racism contained in the spreadsheet. New Mexicans should not be expected to tolerate this "macaca moment" -- or the hateful atmosphere that evidently produced it. This is not Arizona and we cannot permit our state to become another outlet for the kind of wedge-issue hate offensives typified by the Republicans who are in power in our neighboring state to the west. We have to nip it in the bud right now.
Take Action: Call the Secretary of State's office at 505-827-3600 and the Governor's office at 505-476-2200 and demand that Dianna Duran immediately resign her post due to the racist material released by her office.
The Justice League PAC is a statewide political committee and was formed by Neri Holguin, Sandra Wechsler, Eli Il Yong Lee, Keegan King and Antionette Tellez-Humble, who have years of experience in New Mexico politics and issues. For more information, please go to www.justiceleaguepac.com.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
HB 78 Driver's License Bill Dies as Conference Committee Fails to Reach Compromise
There were hours and hours of acrimonious debate, a ton of right-wing hate emails and phone calls to legislators, several passionate pro-immigrant rallies and an enormous push by Gov. Susana Martinez and her cronies to make repealing driver's licenses for immigrants THE wedge issue of the New Mexico legislative session. Today, however, the much-amended HB 78 went down to final defeat in a morning conference committee meeting held on the last day of this year's session.
How did we get here? First, Rep. Nunez's version of the bill -- a committee substitute that was "blasted" to the House floor after being table in committee -- passed the House. Then the Senate Judiciary Committee made significant amendments to enhance license security, and the Senate tightened up rules and penalties even further and passed its own version.
Because of the differences, the legislation had to go through a concurrence process. A House-Senate conference committee consisting of Senators Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), Howie Morales (D-Silver City) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) and Representatives Ken Martinez (D-Grants), Ray Begaye (D-Shiprock) and Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) tried to hammer out a finalized compromise bill to send back to both houses for a final okay. The committee could not reach an agreement, even though the amended bill that passed the Senate specifically addressed the issues Gov. Martinez had claimed she cared about -- a tightening of regulations and a hike in penalties to make it harder for fraudulent applicants to get a license.
Two amendments failed in the conference committee. Rep. Begaye proposed one to accept the Senate version with an added requirement that the question be put on the ballot. Rep. Nunez wanted all the Senate amendments removed. No go. And so, no compromise bill, no concurrence.
A Vicious Campaign
Does it really matter? Susana Martinez had already indicated she would veto anything other than Nunez's version of the bill. Clearly, though, Susana and her cronies and political strategists consider this a victory in terms of something they obviously believe is even more important than the bill itself -- successfully stirring up right wingers, tea party members and talk radio callers to foaming-at-the-mouth hate speech against Democrats. This, despite the fact there are very powerful public safety considerations that support the wisdom of making driver's licenses available without a Social Security number.
Many lawmakers complained they had never before experienced a legislative session so full of personal attacks, disturbing communications from the public -- including death threats -- and mean-spirited "debate" on the floors of the House and Senate, almost all of it coming from the right. That's what happens when the governor of a tri-cultural state makes it her primary business to score cheap and tawdry political points by scapegoating a minority, as Martinez and company did this session.
Senate Floor Leader Michael Sanchez even suggested that the invective-filled pressure might be at least partially to blame when Senate Rules Committee Chair Linda Lopez had to check into a hospital with health issues ten days before the end of the session. (Sen. Lopez's beloved mother then passed away during the turmoil, and the funeral is taking place today. Our sincere condolences go out to Sen. Lopez and her family.)
Martinez et al. went so far as to run radio ads pushing the driver's license repeal -- ads paid for in a questionable manner, with leftover campaign funds from her gubernatorial run. Although fellow right-winger Dianna Duran, in her role as Secretary of State, ruled the use of campaign funds was just fine and dandy, many folks with knowledge of the state law disagreed. Somos Un Pueblo United, which had filed a complaint about the funding with both the SOS, the Attorney General and the Santa Fe District Attorney, was one of them. Non-partisan good government group Common Cause was another. You can read about that here. Just this week, the Democratic Party of New Mexico began running their own radio ad calling out Martinez on her politicization of this issue.
The "Voter Fraud" Twist
In addition, late in the session, Dianne Duran announced that she was comparing driver's license lists and voter rolls, and claimed she had already found examples of possible voter fraud by undocumented immigrants. Nothing to back up that claim, of course, but it served to once again call attention to the immigrant wedge issue and another right-wing favorite, "voter fraud." That prompted the ACLU NM to file a massive document request so they can investigate what's really going on related to Duran's claims. And on Friday, the Bernalillo County Clerk's office filed a similar document request. Many are questioning the validity of Duran's comparison method, and she's getting lots of flack about making claims to the public that haven't been sufficiently documented. We'll see what she produces in response to the document requests.
GOP Plan: Spew, Divide and Conquer
One of the primary goals of the Martinez-Duran juggernaut on these issues clearly is the creation of an emotional and divisive wedge issue that can be used by campaign operatives against Dems in the 2012 election. Susana had staffers -- paid for by tax-payer dollars -- crowded into the press gallery videoing the floor debates with a laser-beam focus on capturing statements that could be used in future right-wing TV and radio ads. Just another example of Martinez's eternal politics-before-people campaign. Such tactics have long been a major part of the Republican playbook -- spew negative rhetoric to distract the people with shiny wedge issues while stealing them blind and obstructing every measure meant to actually fix the problems we face.
When folks look back at this 60-day legislative session, I think it may well be viewed as one of the most shameful, expediently political and nasty displays by a governor and GOP lawmakers of conduct unbecoming members of government. It was like having Karl Rove in the Roundhouse 24-7, creating gotcha moments -- while the unemployment rate in our state rose even higher and the critical issues of jobs and the economy got the short end of the stick. This isn't governing. It's grandstanding. And it should be judged as unacceptable to every New Mexican who cares about the future of our state.
We can disagree on politics -- but we should never allow anyone to undermine the unity in diversity that makes New Mexico such a special place for all of us. We can never let any right-wing politico make us into another Arizona or Texas, full of bigotry and scapegoating.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Bernalillo County Clerk Addresses Secretary of State's Allegations of Non-Citizen Voting Irregularities
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver is urging caution when considering Secretary of State Dianna Duran's recent allegations of non-citizens being registered to vote and voting in elections. “It's too soon to draw any conclusions about whether or not the practice of voting by non-citizens is actually occurring,” Clerk Toulouse Oliver said in a statement released this afternoon.
"Several individuals and organizations, including my office, have asked the Secretary of State for more information about the data her office is using to make determinations of voter fraud, and for specific information about who in particular the Secretary believes to be voting illegally," Clerk Toulouse Oliver continued.
The Bernalillo County Clerk's office yesterday made a public information request of the Secretary of State's office for the information in question. Deputy County Clerk Robert Adams made the request of the Secretary of State's Office for the purpose of potentially enabling Bernalillo County to conduct its own investigation. Deputy Clerk Adams also had additional questions pertaining to the maintenance of the statewide voter file in anticipation of the meeting of the Bernalillo County Board of Registration this coming Monday, March 21.
According to the Bernalillo County Clerk, the Secretary of State's office has not yet responded to the request, but has 3 days under state law in which to do so.
Toulouse Oliver said, "Some questions I have been asked and hope to be able to answer are, what criteria is the Secretary using to guarantee a match between the MVD's data and the state voter file? Beyond a list from MVD, how is the Secretary evaluating the current immigration status of the voters in question? Will the county clerks be given this information so we can assist with the investigation and potential prosecution of individuals who are found to be guilty of registering and/or voting as non-citizens?"
The County Clerk pointed out that during her term in office there have been occasional accusations, but no verified cases of non-citizens voting. "When such allegations have been brought to my attention, they have been investigated and found to be ultimately unsubstantiated," she said. Specifically, the Clerk recalled the allegations made in 2008 when legitimate voters were accused of being non-citizens.
However, Clerk Toulouse Oliver cautioned, "It is important to thoroughly investigate each and every accusation of voter registration and or voting fraud. Though I have not seen any substantiated cases of voting fraud, my office has uncovered numerous cases of potential voter registration fraud, which we referred to law enforcement for investigation and that ultimately resulted, in at least one case, in prosecution."
"The most important thing I want to communicate to the voters is this -- elections in New Mexico are well-run and have few, if any, irregularities associated with them," Toulouse Oliver stated. "The Secretary of State is concerned about election integrity, and this is a good thing. However, prematurely revealing information that has not been fully investigated or vetted by the public is concerning."
"It has taken years to restore the voters' confidence in our state's election system and it can take but a moment to ruin that confidence," Toulouse Oliver said. "I want to reassure voters that your county clerks are doing everything in their power to conduct free, fair and transparent elections, and will do everything we can to get to the bottom of the questions that have been raised," Clerk Toulouse Oliver concluded.
Note: See our previous post on this issue.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
ACLU-NM to Investigate Allegations of Voter Fraud by Secretary of State Dianna Duran
If you're not yet a "card-carrying member of the ACLU," you really should be. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) filed public records requests with the Office of Governor Susana Martinez and the NM Secretary of State seeking all records and correspondence related to Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s announcement yesterday that her office had uncovered possible instances of voter fraud by foreign nationals. Through the requests, the ACLU-NM seeks to ensure the transparency and objectivity of the investigation.
“We want to know the motivations behind this investigation and the validity of any assertions that the New Mexico law allowing drivers licenses for all immigrants contributed to voter fraud,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “We take claims of voter fraud seriously because they undermine voter confidence in our electoral system and tend to discourage participation in elections. We also wish to ensure that any exchange of records in this investigation did not violate voter privacy guarantees that are written into state law.”
In 2008, the ACLU-NM sued the Republican Party of New Mexico and the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office for illegally releasing confidential voter registration information to the public in an attempt to prove voter fraud. You can read about that here.
The ACLU-NM requested the following information from the Governor’s office:
• All records pertaining to possible voter fraud and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico involving foreign nationals, including, but not limited to, any memoranda, correspondence, including email, and/or notes that discuss voter fraud and/or irregularities between the Office of the Governor and the Office of the Secretary of State.
The ACLU-NM requested the following information from the Secretary of State:
• All records pertaining to possible voter fraud and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico involving foreign nationals, including, but not limited to, any memoranda, correspondence, including email, and/or notes that discuss voter fraud and/or irregularities and the Office of the Secretary of State’s search for voter fraud in voter rolls and registrations.
• All records that support the Office of the Secretary of State’s allegations of possible voter fraud and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico involving foreign nationals, including, but not limited to the voter registrations in question.
• Any documents that reflect communications between the Office of the Secretary of State and any one at the Governor’s Office related to alleged and/or proven voter fraud involving foreign nationals and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico.
• Any documents that reflect communications between the Office of the Secretary of State and the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division related to alleged and/or proven voter fraud involving foreign nationals and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico.
• Any documents that reflect communication between the Office of the Secretary of State and any federal agency related to alleged and/or proven voter fraud involving foreign nationals and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico.
• Any documents that reflect communication between any parties outside of the Office of the Secretary of State—including, but not limited to faculty at the University of New Mexico and representatives of any political party—and the Office of the Secretary of State related to alleged and/or proven voter fraud involving foreign nationals and/or any irregularities noted in the master list of registered voters in New Mexico.
“The public deserves to know how the government is using their voting records and personal information and to what end,” said ACLU-NM Managing Attorney Laura Schauer Ives. “Allegations of voter fraud are serious and should be subject to thorough, non-partisan scrutiny.”
Somos Un Pueblo Unido Responds
Commenting on Dianna Duran's announcement, Marcela Diaz of the immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido said the cross check won't help to identify illegal voting because she contends the list being used by the secretary of state's office also includes U.S. citizens who did not use their Social Security numbers when obtaining a license and those residents who have since become naturalized.
"Most people in the immigrant community would not attempt to vote illegally because it would prevent them from one day becoming a legal permanent resident or citizen," Diaz said. "That's not a risk people are willing to take."
A Martinez Obsession
A Tuesday Albuquerque Journal article describes the Martinez plan to give SOS Dianna Duran a list of New Mexico driver’s licenses issued to foreign nationals so they can be cross-checked against the state’s voter registration rolls. And here's a good summary by Tracy Dingmann of Clearly New Mexico of the actions taken by Susana Martinez and her administration to make immigration a wedge issue useful in stirring up New Mexicans -- while ignoring priority issues in the state like job creation. So far, there's been a three-pronged attack:
Weeks into her term, Gov. Martinez issued an executive order that mirrors Arizona’s discriminatory law, instructing state police to collaborate with immigration officials and to question the status of anyone “suspected” of a crime.
Throughout the session, Gov. Martinez targeted licenses for immigrants and forced the legislature to spend hours debating a program that’s made our roads safer since 2003.
Now, she’s on a witch-hunt hoping to show that immigrants are registering to vote and committing voter fraud. This is apparently a high priority for her administration, despite the fact that countless investigations into allegations of voter fraud in New Mexico have
Wedge Issue Frenzy
Dianna Duran used the bogus issue of "voter fraud" as a way to attract media attention during her campaign for Secretary of State last year. She and her right-wing cronies have long claimed such "fraud" is rampant in an effort to gain support for requiring photo IDs for voting. They obviously see it as a potentially effective way to make it harder for certain low-income, elderly and/or rural voters to get to the polls -- and from voting Democratic. Despite numerous studies and investigations here and around the nation, no evidence has ever been found of significant numbers of people fraudulently voting.
Now Duran, Martinez and their right-wing advisers are clearly seeking to intertwine the issues of voter fraud and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants into a nice, juicy package of wedge issue hysteria. Two for the price of one. Unsuccessful so far in convincing lawmakers to pass a photo voter ID bill or a repeal of the licenses for foreign nationals, our GOP governor and secretary of state appear to be working in tandem to keep the issues alive so they can score tawdry political points.
Evidence is mounting that Susana Martinez has put politics before people from the minute she took the oath in January -- and that she intends to keep right on doing so. Susana seems to prefer a perpetual negative campaign over responsible governing. New Mexicans and our state's real needs be damned.