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New Mexico: Candidate for Secretary of State Says Fraud May be Used in Election PDF  | Print |  Email
By Gideon Elliot, New   
June 05, 2006

"Those truly concerned about the integrity of our democratic process know it depends foremost on the integrity of those we choose to run our elections."


This article appeared on It is reposted here with permission of the author. 


Last week, Jeff Jones reported in a series of copyrighted stories for the Albuquerque Journal that according to Bernalillo County Clerk and Candidate for Secretary of State (SOS), Mary Herrera, as many as 60,000 out of the 225,000 voter identification cards already mailed out to voters in her county by the Secretary of State’s office will arrive at wrong addresses, and that “well over 100,000 of the cards could be mailed to the wrong address statewide.”


To put Herrera’s numbers in perspective, during the 2002 primaries the unopposed Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, Rebecca Vigil-Giron, received 35,791 votes in Bernalillo County and 137,907 statewide, while in the Republican Primary for SOS, Sharon Clahchischilliage (also unopposed), received 77,789 statewide and 27,082 in Bernalillo County.


Herrera believes the 60,000 voter id cards with incorrect information cards could impact the results of Tuesday’s election, telling Jones that anybody who “…wants to commit it (fraud), they can open up that card (envelope).”


So how is it that so many voter id cards could be mailed out with incorrect information on them? According to Jeff Jones’ Wednesday May 31, 2006, article, “Voter ID Arrives With Errors,” Secretary of State “Vigil-Giron blamed the incorrect cards on voter information provided by the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office” since it is at the Clerk’s office that all voter registration forms are processed. And processing voter registration forms is no small feat.


In 2004, the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office had backlog of over 3,000 voter registration forms to process three weeks before Election Day, well after the deadline for voter registration-- so many that I believe Herrera ended up hiring temps to come in and enter the voter registration forms. One point here on databases that I learned—the data has to be entered into a computer by somebody at some point in the process. This is important to keep in mind because just think how many times you accidentally transpose letters or numbers when typing. Easy right? Well, just imagine a stack of 50 sitting on your desk. The chances are that you’ll make a mistake entering all that info into a database too. This would certainly explain how Mary Herrera came up with the number of 60,000 being mailed to the wrong addresses in her county—that’s how many voter registration forms she figures were incorrectly entered by her staff during the great voter registration slam of 2004.


So you would think. But asked who’s to blame for so many ids being mailed out with wrong information, Herrera said pointed to the voters, telling the Albuquerque Journal that her “workers, after the 2004 general election, checked every county voter's original voter-registration card to make sure the data for the new voter identification cards was entered correctly” and that “We ... went through every single card.”


According to Jones, “Herrera said she began a public-awareness campaign in 2005 to let voters know the new voter ID cards would be coming and to make sure their current addresses were on file with the county clerk's office. But she said many voters didn't heed that advice” and chalked up the chalked up the massive number of incorrect addresses to the fact that voters often do not change their voter registrations and address listings after moving," and blamed other "errors on difficulties her employees have in deciphering voters' original, handwritten registration cards."


Its unclear in Jones’ article whether or not Herrera suggested something be done to punish voters for failing to heed her word in the future, but the article proceeds from Herrera’ complaint to mention that state election law says "a voter who has changed his residence within the same county shall complete a certificate of registration to change his registered residence address." But state Bureau of Elections director Ernie Marquez said Wednesday he can find no punishment in state election law for violating that provision. Herrera and Vigil-Giron said the law needs teeth. 


However, before we start bearing teeth at any voters, lets go back to this question, how does Mary Herrera know as many as 60,000 id cards are going to the wrong address in Bernalillo County, and more interestingly, how is she able to estimate that “well over” 100,000 are going to the wrong address statewide?


An email to the Bernalillo County Clerk asking for the basis of her estimates went unanswered last week. However, I was reassured knowing that officials at the Secretary of State’s office seemed equally puzzled by the Bernalillo County Clerk’s estimates as I was, acknowledging they had no idea where the Bernalillo County Clerk came up with her 60,000 figure, unless that was how many errors she was aware of in her own database, nor how she was able to estimate 100,000 ids would go to the wrong address statewide.


Yet, even if Herrera has a factual basis upon which to assert her belief that some of the 60,000 voter ids she suspects to be in her county could be misused in the upcoming elections, just like her larger statewide estimate, there is no way to verify the number or the corresponding threat fraud, which begs the question, why give any numbers at all if they can’t be verified, backed-up or supported in some fashion?


By using such large number without giving any accounting for her estimates, Herrera has created a specter of villainous voter-committed-fraud that can only be fought with suspicion and discrimination at the polling booth. Coincidently, Ms. Herrera believes there to be a solution--TEETH in legislation, which she’d undoubtedly fight for if elected Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Ms. Herrera’s warning of voter fraud hangs over the very election that will likely determine if she gets to play that role like a dark cloud.


Those truly concerned about the integrity of our democratic process know it depends foremost on the integrity of those we choose to run our elections.
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