mcloudyn.png
Friday July 1st, 2022 1:42AM

New Mexico election drama has roots in wider county movement

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SANTA FE, New Mexico (AP) — A rural New Mexico county's initial refusal to certify its primary election results sent ripples across the country last week, a symbol of how even the most elemental functions of democracy have become politicized pressure points amid the swirl of lies stemming from the 2020 presidential outcome.

After the Otero County Commission finally relented, one question persisted: Why New Mexico, a state that has not been a political battleground and where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump handily two years ago?

The seeds of the short-lived election crisis, which ended amid a showdown with the secretary of state and an order from the New Mexico Supreme Court, had been planted months before, when David Clements, a lawyer who has gained prominence in conservative circles, and others began raising conspiracy theories and false claims about the last presidential election that came to dominate political discussion in the heavily Republican county.

But it’s not just Otero County where local election administration is in the crosshairs of conspiracy theorists, and it’s not just Clements involved in the effort.

Across the country, supporters and allies of former President Donald Trump have been meeting with local officials — sowing doubts about the 2020 election, seeking access to voting equipment and pressing for changes that would upend election administration in their counties. The effort has led to security breaches of voting equipment and, in New Mexico, chaos surrounding what has historically been a routine task.

"You have seen a whole bunch of people — some sincere, some perhaps less sincere — who have rushed to fill the demand to provide evidence of the fraud that Trump created,” said David Levine, a former election official who is now a fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election that could have changed the outcome.

Even before the Nov. 3, 2020, election, Trump was telling his supporters that fraud was the only way he could lose re-election, pointing mostly — and without evidence — to the expansion of mail-in voting during the pandemic.

In the months since, there has been no evidence to support the claims. They have been dismissed by dozens of judges, by Trump’s attorney general at the time, and by a coalition of federal and state election and cybersecurity officials who called the 2020 vote the “most secure” in U.S. history.

That hasn’t stopped the false claims from proliferating, driven by a group of Trump supporters who appear at many of the same events and engage with each other regularly.

Clements, a former assistant district attorney in southern New Mexico and former business professor at New Mexico State University, has traveled the country speaking with local government boards, at conservative conventions and to church groups. He was at the “cybersymposium” last year held by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a key Trump ally who has sought to prove voting machines were somehow manipulated to favor Biden.

Clements’ popular social media feed on Telegram frequently weaves pronouncements about democracy with scripture and prayer. It also includes video chats with the like-minded.

In one video from March, Clements chatted with Jim Marchant, a Trump loyalist from Nevada who claims elections have long been rigged. Marchant recently won the Republican primary for secretary of state, Nevada's top elections position. He has been a key organizer of a group of “America First” candidates this year who either deny the outcome of the 2020 presidential election or promote the idea that elections in the U.S. are corrupt.

In the video, Clements and Marchant discuss a “county commission strategy” that involves pressuring local officials to get rid of the “cheat” machines so that all ballots are not only cast by hand but also counted by hand. Election experts say hand-counting of ballots is not only less accurate but extremely labor-intensive, potentially delaying results by weeks if not months. They also say it's unnecessary because voting equipment is tested before and after elections to ensure ballots are read and tallied correctly.

A day earlier, county officials in Nye County, Nevada, had voted to request that the county clerk not use ballot tabulators in the upcoming November election. The clerk is opposed to the move and has decided to retire after the primary. Marchant was among those urging commissioners to make the move.

“It was the first domino to fall to allow us to get back to fair and transparent elections here in the country,” Marchant told Clements. “And we’re going to do it with many more counties right here in Nevada, and hopefully this will encourage others in other states to do the same thing.”

Clements was excited about the development and promised to push counties to do the same in his home state of New Mexico, where he once sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

“Shouldn’t the commissioners care about whether I trust the system or not?” Clements told Marchant. "I love how you just cut through all the noise.”

This week, Clements is scheduled to appear at an event in Louisiana with Douglas Frank, another Lindell associate who has been traveling the country meeting with state and local officials. In May 2021, Frank met with members of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office offering to scrutinize their voting procedures, boasting he’s been working with county officials in 22 states.

“You either come onto our team and we can audit it together and show that there was no malfeasance, or you can oppose us,” Frank told agency staff, according to an audio recording. The office did not accept the offer.

For months now, Clements has been pushing Republican-leaning counties in New Mexico to launch partisan reviews of the 2020 election, similar to the much-maligned effort in Arizona coordinated by Republicans in one chamber of the state's legislature. In Otero County, which Trump won by a wide margin, Clements and his wife, Erin, have been conducting an informal and unpaid review of the county’s 2020 election procedures.

The result has been a series of hourslong presentations to the county commission about unproven vulnerabilities in vote-tallying machines and patterns in voter registration activity. The Clements, who list Las Cruces as their residence, did not respond to requests for an interview.

Earlier this month, when Otero County commissioners were considering whether to discontinue the use of ballot tabulators, the couple again made a presentation. It prompted a rebuttal from Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes.

“There is a lot of things they have found, that they are saying, that are not true,” Holmes said.

Nonetheless, the commissioners — led by Couy Griffin, co-founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” who was convicted of entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 insurrection — voted to stop using the ballot tabulators before the November election.

Clements was among those urging Otero County commissioners against certification of the June 7 primary results, repeating conspiracy theories about voting equipment that trace back to the days immediately following the 2020 election. Holmes, the clerk, said the primary was conducted without problems.

Clements also went to Torrance County, another conservative stronghold in New Mexico, to urge commissioners to defy authorities and refuse to certify their primary results. During the meeting last Friday, the crowd hurled insults of “traitors” and “cowards” at commissioners before they voted — unanimously — to certify the results.

Election officials and experts have expressed concern that local certification boards in other states that are receptive to conspiracy theories surrounding voting machines might be inspired to follow Otero County's example, wreaking havoc with election results.

Counties in Nevada have until Friday to sign off on the results of the state’s June 14 primary. Nye County commissioners, who want to stop using ballot tabulators, are scheduled to meet to consider certification on Friday. They have not said publicly what they plan to do.

___

Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas; Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio; and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
New Mexico election drama has roots in wider county movement
A rural New Mexico county’s initial refusal to certify its primary election results sent ripples across the country last week
2:20PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Live updates | New York Republicans cheer court's gun ruling
Several Republicans in New York are cheering Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down key portions of the state’s gun licensing law
2:13PM ( 37 minutes ago )
NY leaders vow new gun limits after Supreme Court ruling
For decades, New York’s leaders boasted that its strict limits on handgun ownership made it one of America’s safest places, a claim backed by statistics showing the state consistently had among the nation’s lowest death rates from firearms
2:03PM ( 46 minutes ago )
U.S. News
European Union makes Ukraine a candidate for EU membership
The European Union’s leaders have agreed to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, setting in motion a potentially yearslong process that could draw the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West
2:28PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Oil industry says Granholm meeting sends 'positive signal'
Groups representing the oil industry and refiners say a meeting with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was productive and should send a signal to markets that the United States is committed to long-term investments in the oil and refining industry
2:18PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Supreme Court expands gun rights, with nation divided
The Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, a major expansion of gun rights
2:09PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Afghans bury dead, dig for survivors of devastating quake
Villagers rushed to bury the dead and dug by hand through the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan
1:38PM ( 1 hour ago )
Officials: US to send rocket systems, other aid to Ukraine
U.S. officials will send another $450 million in military aid to Ukraine, including some additional medium-range rocket systems
1:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
Supreme Court expands gun rights, striking New York limits
The Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have a right to carry guns in public, a major expansion of gun rights
12:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Biden administration moves to expand Title IX protections
The Biden administration has proposed a dramatic overhaul of campus sexual assault rules
11:19AM ( 3 hours ago )
Michigan to destroy some blood spots in fight over consent
Michigan has agreed to destroy more than 3 million dried blood spots taken from babies and kept in storage
10:58AM ( 3 hours ago )
Feds: Ghislaine Maxwell deserves at least 30 years in prison
Prosecutors say British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell should spend at least 30 years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of teenage girls over a 10-year period by her onetime boyfriend, financier Jeffrey Epstein
1:13AM ( 13 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
States make pitches to vote 1st in 2024 Democratic primaries
Sixteen states and Puerto Rico are jockeying for early slots on a new Democratic presidential primary calendar, offering presentations for party bosses on why they deserve to go first — or at least close to it
1:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Powell: Fed must convince public it can tame inflation
As if their job weren’t hard enough at a time of raging inflation, Chair Jerome Powell and his Federal Reserve colleagues have to do more these days than decide just how much to raise interest rates without triggering a recession
1:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
FBI: Naval reservist said he stormed Capitol with Proud Boys
The FBI says a U.S. Naval reservist charged with storming the U.S. Capitol told an undercover agent he went there with members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group
1:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
1/6 panel to hear of Trump's pressure on Justice Dept.
The Jan. 6 committee will hear from former Justice Department officials who faced down a relentless pressure campaign from Donald Trump over the presidential election results
12:08AM ( 14 hours ago )
Lawyer leaving 1/6 panel amid talk of Missouri Senate run
An attorney working as a senior investigator for the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will leave the post amid calls urging him to run for a Missouri U.S. Senate seat as an independent
5:32PM ( 21 hours ago )
Jan. 6 hearings: What we’ve learned, and what’s next
The House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection heard from election workers and state officials on Tuesday as it described former President Donald Trump’s pressure on states to overturn his 2020 election defeat
3:37PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Elections
Election 2022: Britt beats Brooks in Alabama Senate runoff
Katie Britt has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama, defeating six-term Congressman Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump endorsed and then un-endorsed him
9:32PM ( 1 day ago )
Election 2022: Trump takes additional losses in Georgia
After bruising defeats in last month’s Georgia primaries, former President Donald Trump’s losing streak in the state continued Tuesday as two of his endorsed congressional candidates faltered
9:22PM ( 1 day ago )
Election 2022: Trump posts additional losses in Georgia
After bruising defeats in last month’s Georgia primaries, former President Donald Trump’s losing streak in the state continued Tuesday as two of his endorsed congressional candidates faltered
9:08PM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
1/6 panel focuses on Trump's pressure on elected officials
The House Jan. 6 committee has opened, hearing from state and local officials who fended off Donald Trump’s pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election
1:49PM ( 2 days ago )
1/6 panel to hear from Raffensperger, others Trump pushed
The House Jan. 6 committee has opened, hearing from local officials who fended off Donald Trump’s pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election
1:20PM ( 2 days ago )
Georgia's Raffensperger among witnesses for next 1/6 hearing
The House Jan. 6 committee is expected to hear testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about the extraordinary pressure he faced from former President Donald Trump to “find 11,780” votes that could flip the state to prevent Joe Biden’s election victory
8:52PM ( 2 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
Live updates | New York Republicans cheer court's gun ruling
Several Republicans in New York are cheering Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down key portions of the state’s gun licensing law
2:13PM ( 37 minutes ago )
NY leaders vow new gun limits after Supreme Court ruling
For decades, New York’s leaders boasted that its strict limits on handgun ownership made it one of America’s safest places, a claim backed by statistics showing the state consistently had among the nation’s lowest death rates from firearms
2:03PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Live updates | McCarthy, Pelosi react to court's gun ruling
The two parties’ leaders in the U.S. House are offering contrasting reactions to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling
2:03PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Uvalde victim's sister pleads for gun safety measures
The sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school shooting rampage tearfully pleaded with Texas lawmakers to pass tougher gun laws and questioned why so many security measures failed
1:59PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Judge approves $1B+ deal in deadly Florida condo collapse
A judge has given final approval to a settlement of more than $1 billion for victims of the collapse of a Florida beachfront condominium
1:40PM ( 1 hour ago )