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New Mexico

New Mexico: Make Sure Those Votes Are Counted PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Inez Russell, Santa Fe New Mexican   
February 08, 2006
This commentary was published by the Santa Fe New Mexican on February 6, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.

So much of what matters in our world today takes place on the fringes while insignificant fluff fills the center. That's as true in New Mexico as anywhere -- and the quiet, inspiring battle by a handful of citizens to improve the way we vote is but one example of how we too often miss what really matters.

After the 2000 and 2004 elections, most of us cheered or lamented the results, and then went on about our business. Even those of us who knew about the massive pre-election, illegal voter purge of the rolls in Florida in 2000, or who realized that the 2004 Ohio election was stage-managed to disenfranchise people, didn't think we could successfully challenge business as usual.

In New Mexico, though, a voting rights lawsuit has done just that.
New Mexico: Paper Trail Leads Toward Voter Confidence PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Joyce Bartley and Santiago Juarez, PACE and VoterAction   
February 07, 2006

This article appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on February 6, 2006. It is reposted with permission of VoterAction.

To his great credit, Gov. Bill Richardson has proposed legislation that would establish a uniform voting machine system in New Mexico this year.


If the Legislature adopts his proposal, New Mexico voters will fill out paper ballots that will then be fed into optical scan voting machines. Although these machines will electronically tally the votes, all the voters' original ballots will be preserved for later random audits and, if necessary, recounts.


This system will allow New Mexico voters to know that their votes can be recounted by human beings, under the observation of representatives of the political parties, if a recount is demanded or if the required random check of results shows a problem with the vote count.


This is the result that those of us who have urged voting reform have fought so hard to achieve.

New Mexico: Not Paper Trail, Not Paper Record - Paper Ballot! PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 30, 2006

United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting New Mexico, together with VoteTrustUSA have launched a Citizen Action in support of Paper Ballots in New Mexico. Please click here to send a message to your New Mexico Legislators in support of HB 430 and SB 295!

Two weeks ago, Governor Bill Richardson, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, and State Election Director Ernest Marquez held a press conference to call on the legislature to establish a statewide paper ballot optical scan voting system. At the conference Richardson explained that his plan "makes the most sense and resolves many of the problems that have plagued New Mexico elections for far too long."

State Senator Linda Lopez (photo at left), chair of the Senate Rules Committe and co-chair of the Election Reform Task Force has obliged with SB295. An identical bill, HB 430,has been introduced in the State House by Rep. Mary Helen Garcia (D-Las Cruces, photo at right). Both bills would amend the existing law to read "[a]ll voting systems used in elections covered by the Election Code shall use a paper ballot on which the voter physically or electronically marks the voter's choices on the ballot itself."

That's right - not paper trail, not paper record, but paper ballot! Andy Stephenson would be so proud! (See "What Is A Ballot?")

And it gets better. The bill goes on to establish that "[t]he paper ballot shall be used … to check either the veracity of a machine count or the count itself and shall be used in a recount proceeding as are absentee ballots, and in case of a discrepancy, the paper ballot shall be considered the true and correct record of the voter's choices."

The bill includes an emergency clause: "It is necessary for the public peace, health and safety that this act take effect immediately." Truer words were never written about the urgency of verifiable elections!
New Mexico: County Clerks Balk As Paper Ballot Legislation Moves Forward PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 26, 2006
Following Governor Bill Richardson's Lead, legislation has now been introduced in both in the the New Mexico House and Senate that would establish a uniform statewide paper based voting system. Rep. Mary Helen Garcia (D-Las Cruces, photo at right) introduced HB 430, which is identical to SB 295, submitted earlier this week by Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque). The bills would require that all voting systems use "a paper ballot marked by the voter".

Predictably, some county clerks - the same county clerks that have fought against verifiable elections for years - have complained. On Tuesday an association of clerks led by Bernalillo's Mary Herrera (photo on left) sent a letter to legislators, Joe Monahan reported in New Mexico Politics:
The clerks association dashed off a letter Tuesday to key lawmakers saying getting all the machines in place for the November election is a logistic nightmare and that training poll workers, most of them quite elderly, is a key issue.

Some Santa Fe insiders say the clerks are looking for cover, that if they system goes haywire they will be able to point fingers back at the Guv and legislators. According to these same reliable insiders, Herrera has had a sharp exchange with Big Bill on all this.
Election integrity activists in the state responded quickly to news of Herrera's actions. "Mary Herrera indicates an inexplicable resistance by some to Governor Richardson's initiative to have a standardized voting system based on paper ballots in New Mexico," said Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico. "Sure, the county clerks have work to do to get the new voting system in place. But most of that work is necessary anyway, because new voting systems must be in place by the November election to satisfy the requirements of the Help American Vote Act for accessibility by disabled voters. Eleven counties already use paper ballots, so the new system will be a minimal change for them. An additional eight counties have already ordered the equipment needed to implement a paper ballot voting system. The remaining New Mexico counties should be following their lead. "
New Mexico: Court Permits Lopatequi Voting Machine Lawsuit To Go Forward PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By VoterAction New Mexico   
January 19, 2006
On January 18, 2006, New Mexico District Judge Eugenio Mathis authorized the plaintiff voters in Lopategui v. Vigil-Giron, et al. to proceed with the collection of evidence and preparation for a trial in which plaintiffs will seek a permanent injunction against use of inaccurate and unreliable electronic voting machines in New Mexico elections.  At an afternoon hearing in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Judge Mathis denied a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Rebecca Vigil-Giron, the Secretary of State, seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.  He also lifted a stay of discovery he had imposed in December, 2005.  Finally, Judge Mathis granted motions to be dismissed from the lawsuit that had been filed by the county clerk defendants, but only on the condition that they agreed to be bound by any injunction subsequently issued against the Secretary of State.

The court’s rulings are a victory for the plaintiffs, who may now subpoena testimony, documents, and voting machine inspections.  The new evidence will augment the substantial evidence plaintiffs have already amassed of the inaccuracy and unreliability of electronic voting systems used in New Mexico elections.
New Mexico Lawsuit Moves Forward PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Warren Stewart, director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 19, 2006
Plaintiffs in the Lopategui lawsuit seeking to bar the state of New Mexico from using Sequoia Edge touchscreen machines scored a significant victory yesterday. District Judge Eugenio Mathis denied a motion for summary judgment from the Secretary of State’s Office that sought to dismiss the complaint brought by a dozen individual New Mexico voters, Voter Action New Mexico and the Progressive Alliance for Community Empowerment.

The Santa Fe New Mexican quoted John Boyd, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs explaining that “it means we will have the chance to prove that those machines are unreliable, and we believe we can do that”.
New Mexico: Plaintiffs Applaud Governor's Decision PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By VoterAction New Mexico   
January 13, 2006
Lawsuit Remains Until the Plan is Fully Implemented

[Press Release from VoterAction New Mexico] On Thursday, January 12, 2006, New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid demonstrated bold leadership by announcing a plan to make New Mexico an all-paper-ballot voting state.  This is a great day for New Mexicans because it means that we will be able to cast our votes with confidence that a mechanism is in place that will allow all votes to be counted and tallied and the results verified.

The Governor said that he will introduce legislation next week, at the beginning of the 30-day 2006 state legislative session that, if adopted, will accomplish two things:  1) it will mandate the use of optical scan paper ballots in all New Mexico elections, and (2) it will provide $11 million in state funding to purchase the necessary voting systems.  If the legislation is adopted by the legislature and implemented before the next election, inaccurate, unreliable and insecure electronic voting machines that produce no voter-verifiable and auditable paper record will be a thing of the past.

This Governor’s proposal is a great victory for the many concerned citizens and organizations who have tirelessly advocated the change to paper ballots. And it is a great victory for the plaintiffs in Lopategui v. Vigil-Giron, a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs sought this very result. The lawsuit, filed in January 2005, seeks an injunction barring future use of the same unreliable, paperless electronic voting machines that will be replaced under the Governor’s plan if the legislature adopts it.  A catalyst for the Governor’s decision was the Lopategui plaintiffs’ recent and successful effort to temporarily restrain the Secretary of State and county clerks from beginning the purchase of additional unreliable touch screen machines.
Governor Richardson Pledges $11 Million for Voting Machines, Urges Standard System for all Counties PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Governor Richardson's Press Release   
January 12, 2006
SANTA FE - Governor Bill Richardson today announced that he will work with the Legislature to provide $11 million over two years to purchase new voting machines for all New Mexico counties. The Governor will propose a uniform system of machines with a paper trail that allow voters to verify how they voted.

"I am proposing a bold step forward by standardizing the election systems in all of New Mexico's 33 counties – a standardized system relying on paper ballots that many vendors already provide, and that 11 of our counties are already exclusively relying on," Governor Bill Richardson said.

Currently, there is no statewide voting system standard. There are at least six different voting systems used throughout the state. Under Governor Richardson's plan, all counties would use a paper ballot "marksense" system.
New Mexico: Richardson Calls For Paper Ballots Statewide PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
January 12, 2006
Governor Proposes Legislation Requiring Paper Based System In Every County

[Link to Governor Richardson's Press Release]

At a press conference in Santa Fe today, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said that he will propose legislation that requires a paper ballot voting system in all counties and asking that lawmakers allocate $11 million to help pay for needed software and voting machines. According to an Albuquerque Journal article Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Attorney General Patricia Madrid support the switch to the paper ballot system. The press conference was attended by many election reform activists including representatives of Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico, two groups that have labored tirelessly for verifiable elections in the state. Richardson generously invited activists, clerks, and legislators to speak at the press conference and their was uniform praise for the Governor's proposal.

Richardson noted that New Mexico currently uses 6 different sytems, a situation that results in added costs and complications in assembling election results. He observed that irregularities in New Mexico's election data had received national attention and through his proposed unified system, he intended New Mexico to lead the nation in trustworthy election processes. Richardson also pointed out that a uniform paper based systems will save the state in the long run in spite of the initial cost of implementation, a fact born out by numerous studies from states across the country.

Attorney General Madrid emphasized the need to end legal-theory based election challenges that seem to becoming more common around the nation with a system the voters can trust and leaves behind a paper ballot that have been verified by the voter.  She pointed out that if this bill is passed as proposed in this outline that it would probably moot the current injunciton being brough to stop the implementation of certain DRE system, since "it gives them everything they are asking for".  Her legal spokesman noted that despite the attourney general's leadership on guiding the proposed legislation, in the meantime the state is legal obligated to contest the injunction since it confilcts with the SOS's plans for meeting the current NM laws).

Speaking for Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron who was unable to attend the press conference, State Election Director Ernest Marquez said that if lawmakers approve the proposed legislation it would be possible to have a paper ballot system in operation statewide across in November — depending on whether enough ballot tabulating machines, software and other equipment can be quickly purchased. In addition to the funding proposed by Richardson, New Mexico is already in receipt of over $9 million in federally funding for voting system upgrades.

While there are some technical issues regarding funding that remain to be worked out and the actual legislation was not yet available for review, Richardson's announcement marks a significant victory for election reform activists in the state. The adoption of a uniform paper ballot optical scan voting system with ballot-marking devices to assist those with disabilities is a tremendous step toward restoring confidence in the accuracy and security of elections in New Mexico. this is a victory for all New Mexicans.
PACE New Mexico and others join the Lopategui vs. Vigil-Giron lawsuit. PDF  | Print |  Email
New Mexico
By VoterAction New Mexico   
January 12, 2006
Six plaintiffs are to be added to the Lopategui vs. Vigil-Giron lawsuit in a motion to amend the complaint to be filed January 12, 2006. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin use of electronic voting systems responsible for inaccurate and unverifiable results in the last election and before.

The new plaintiffs are PACE New Mexico, Voter Action New Mexico, Linda Yardley from Taos Pueblo, Joyce Bartley of Albuquerque, Marilyn Ernest of Las Vegas, and Michael Withnall, also of Las Vegas. Mr. Withnall is legally blind and joined the lawsuit due to his desire for equal access to verifiable voting. “As a visually impaired voter, I have always had difficulty with voting and am strongly in favor of paper ballots that voters like myself can mark and verify with a voter assist device. Only paper ballots are truly verifiable and auditable. I believe I should be entitled to the same access to verifiable voting as a non-visually impaired voter”.
PACE New Mexico - the Progressive Alliance for Community Empowerment - helped with voter registration across the state and particularly in South Albuquerque which saw high numbers of undervote rates when voters voted on electronic voting machines versus low undervotes on paper ballots form those same precincts. “We have been on the sidelines of this issue way too long. Speaking as a lawyer, the evidence is overwhelming that something is awry. We cannot justify our presence in the community requesting democratic response if we cannot assure them and ourselves that our votes will be counted in a way that is accurate and verifiable …” said Santiago Juarez, Executive Director of PACE.

For more information visit VoterAction New Mexico.
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