Secretary of State Launches Voter Caging Effort In Final Days of Registration Period

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Yes, New Mexico Has A Voting Fiasco Already.


Secretary of State Diana Duran’s Voter Registration Debacle has gone national. According to The Nation magazine’s Voting Rights Watch 2012: “New Mexico Runs Out of Voter Registration Forms– If registering online isn’t your thing, you might have a hard time doing it in person in New Mexico… six counties have run out of English language registration forms. Secretary of State Diana Duran-the first Republican to hold that office in eighty years-is ultimately responsible for printing and making the forms available to register new voters.”


Though the Secretary of State had been unable to print voter registration cards, New Mexico learned this week that the Secretary of State managed to print and mail over 177,000 postcards to voters who Duran believes are inactive and will not vote in the fall election. Under federal law, states may purge voters from the database after they fail to vote in a number of elections and fail to respond to a mailer informing them that they will be taken off the voter rolls.  However, in 2011 the  US Department of Justice told Duran “the State may not in 2011 or 2013 lawfully remove voters from its official list of eligible voters based solely on a suspected but unconfirmed change of address.”


The secretary of state’s mailers are a classic example of voter caging, an often illegal but well tried tactic in the Republican voter suppression arsenal.  If you don’t know voter caging, here is a quick primer:  “practice of sending direct mail to addressees on the voter rolls, compiling a list of addressees from which the mail is returned undelivered, and using that list to purge or challenge voters’ registrations on the grounds that the voters do not legally reside at registered addresses. This typically results in the voters’ having their votes discarded or submitted through the use of provisional ballots requiring further registration confirmation.”


In the 2008 election, Michigan’s Republican secretary of state conducted a similar purge until a federal court declared the purge illegal and ordered the voters back on the rolls.  Similarly, campaign operatives for George W. Bush’s campaign were outed for voter caging in 2004 after they accidentally sent a fifteen-page caging list of minority voters to a reporter’s email address.


Final days of registration spent on fool’s errands


By law, new voters must be registered no later than 28 days before an election – just 67 days from today.  Instead of focusing on helping newly eligible voters participate in the election process, Duran has spent her entire tenure focused on fool’s errands.  In just the past 30 days:


    • Duran’s office failed to print voter registration cards for county clerks. Clerks in Bernalillo, Otero, Lea, Socorro, McKinley and Eddy Counties all reported being out of voter registration cards.


    • Duran joined other Republican Secretaries of State in requesting access to a federal database of registered foreign nationals to compare those names with state voter roles. That database does nothing to identify undocumented immigrants Duran falsely claimed had infiltrated our voter rolls last year.


“We have between 250,000 and 300,000 eligible voters who are unregistered, and a small budget and short time to get them on the rolls,” says Pat Davis of ProgressNowNM. “Instead of using those limited resources to help good people vote, she stopped printing voter registration cards.”


“In the middle of July, Bernalillo County (where most NM voters reside) was totally out of Voter Registration forms in English” said Oriana Sandoval, Executive Director of NM Vote Matters which provides voter registration support to New Mexican communities.


“We called many other counties around the state to see if they could help, but all were either completely out or very, very short.


“Naturally when our staff was canvassing, individuals were not willing to sign the Spanish-language form if they couldn’t understand Spanish.


“We eventually had to use the generic Federal form–which really does not look official, and is full of typos-and helped each applicant to complete the form. However, many residents were effectively disenfranchised as we did not have access to the proper forms.


“But of course you have to ask the question, how did they have the staff and the funding to mail almost 178,000 postcards to voters who may have moved house, and not manage to ensure that New Mexico had a sufficient supply of the forms necessary to register voters?”


To Oriana Sandoval, it appears that the Secretary of State is putting up barriers to electoral registration.




How they develop efficient scare tactics


In addition to the postcards-seen as an authoritarian threat to many-comes a connection to the dreaded ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The folks who tried and throw you or your family out of the country until you became a legal U.S. citizen.


The New Mexico Secretary of State now has access to the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE database: Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement. Started in vote-fixing Florida, use of non-related databases is causing a ruckus around the country. The same game is being tried in Florida, Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina. The database was not designed to be used this way, to track down Duran’s mystical pot of gold: alien voters.


Republicans throughout the country are creating such scare tactics, presumably believing that legal immigrants may want to vote Democratic. The harder we make it to register to vote, the fewer Democratic votes there will be.


And a new report from the Center for American Progress shows why this is so important.  According to CAP, New Mexico has an estimated 202,000 unregistered but eligible Latino voters.  Barack Obama’s margin of victory in 2008 was 125,000 or so and the threat of adding more Latino voters, who traditionally vote Democratic, would have a lasting effect on the Republican’s new grip on power in the state.


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