VIDEO: NM GOP Trains Poll Workers to Suppress Votes

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VIDEO: GOP Caught Training Poll Challengers in Illegal Voter Suppression Tactics

Republican trainees could compromise integrity of November election


Update (10/9/12):  New Mexico Attorney General Gary King launched an investigation into these tactics after our video and report were shared with his office.  Read his official statement online.

UPDATE (10/5/2012): We spoke with representatives from Adelante Development Center today who informed us that 1) Adelante did not sponsor the trainings 2) Adelante does not endorse the actions taken by the Republican Party during the trainings and 3) Adelante was not aware the Republican Party and Tea Party were publicizing their poll challenger trainings as being held at Adelante (Adelante simply rents space at their properties to a variety of organizations). The Adelante representatives we spoke to told us they would be contacting the Republican Party and Tea Party representatives to make sure the Adelante name is not associated with any further trainings.

Update (10:04am MT): New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce tells The Nation that he was aware of the training and supports it, even though he knows some tactics are illegal.  Also says this is the way the GOP will take back New Mexico.

UPDATE: See what happened when we went back to the training AFTER this story broke. 




ALBUQUERQUE – Undercover video recorded by ProgressNow New Mexico shows the Republican Party training poll challengers in illegal tactics that could potentially restrict the voting rights of as many as 1-in8 New Mexicans in November.

A recording of the September 26th official “Poll Challenger Training” conducted by the Republican Party shows a GOP & Tea Party leader giving false and/or misleading information about voting rights and regulations to the training’s attendees. The training was replete with misinformation about ID requirements, the use of provisional ballots, assistance for Spanish-speaking citizens, change of address requirements, and the rights of the disabled at the polls.

The group even created it’s own poll challenger guide complete with instructions on how to demand ID and force legal voters to vote by provisional ballot in blatant contradiction with election law.

The tactics disseminated at the Republican “Poll Challenger Training” have the potential to restrict the voting rights of New Mexicans throughout the state by making it harder for eligible voters to exercise their civic duty and by compromising the integrity of the entire state electoral process.

GOP Poll Challenger Training.jpg
On September 26, 2012 the Republican Party conducted a “Poll Challenger Training” at the Adelante Development Center in Albuquerque – a nonprofit support center for New Mexican’s with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities. The training was conducted by Pat Morlen, a Tea Party activist and former Sandoval County Commission Republican candidate who currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Sandoval County Republican Party. A similar training was also given by the GOP on September 5th and another is scheduled for Thursday, October 4th

Here are a few examples of the misinformation disseminated at the Republican Party training:


A major discrepancy in the Republican training is the claim that people who have changed their addresses must show a physical ID (1) and their address must match:

 “At the request of two or more precinct board members of different political parties, a voter shall still present the required physical form of identification.”   

The trainer was reading word-for-word from the GOP poll challenger guide given to attendees.

FACT: Very few people will have to show ID on November 6th. It will be noted on the voter roll if they must show a form of physical ID. People who registered by mail and did not send in a copy of the documents allowed for ID with the registration are in this category. It does not have to be a picture ID and the address on the document does not have to match the voter registration address.

All other voters may give a verbal ID (name, address, birth year). If they do want to or cannot say it out loud (not wanting to say birth year, for example), they may write the information down and give it to the poll official. (See the full list of acceptable forms of ID on the Secretary of State’s w
ebsite here)

Confirming what many voting rights activists prognosticated would happen when Secretary of State Duran began demanding voters reregister before the election, trainees were also instructed that people who got a postcard from the Secretary of State during her voter purge campaign must vote on a provisional ballot – this is not true. Referring to the 177,000 New Mexicans who received postcards from Secretary of State Dianna Duran and asked what those people will have to do when they show up at the polls: “They’ll vote provisional”  

Secretary of State Dianna Duran has said on a number of occasions (see here andhere) that the voters who were listed as “inactive” after being sent postcards will still be able to vote this November. From the Secretary of State’s website: “an ‘inactive’ status does not prohibit any registered voter to vote. You will vote like usual and your status will return to ‘active.'”

Other examples of false and/or misleading information given at the Republican training:

·       A false claim that, “The police are supposed to be the ones who ensure that the election is legit.” FACT: Elections officials preside over elections, not the police. Police can be enlisted to ensure the orderly conduct of an election but officers who interfere with an election are guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

·       The trainer did not know that the voter can give their birth year in the verbal ID at the polls: “The only things that these voters are required to say are their name and their address…that’s the only thing they’re required to do.” FACT: Voters can provide their name and DOB to vote. (See SOS FAQs). 

·      The trainer said that a person who changed their address but stayed within their same voting precinct should receive a provisional ballot. FACT: Anyone in this situation is given a regular ballot at the polls. (See 1 NMAC 10.3)

·      The trainer claims that interpreters are not provided to non-English speakers and then is unsure if polling places will provide Spanish-language ballots. FACT:  Assistance for people in language minorities is provided, as are Spanish-language ballots.

·      The trainer mistakenly claims that people who have changed their addresses must show a physical ID and their address must match:  “people who have changed addresses, they have to bring in something that says where they live…as long as the address matches up with the address that they say.” FACT: Voters who have moved do not have to show ID. (See N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-24(A)

·      The trainer is confused about the counting of provisional ballots; she said they are only counted if the election is within 2%: “If an election is within 2 percentage points then [provisional ballots are] counted.” FACT: Every vote counts. That’s the point.


The Sandoval County GOP Vice Chair also displayed a harsh insensitivity to New Mexico’s disabled populations during the training – a fact made all the more insulting by the training’s location at the Adelante Development Center.

·      At one point Mrs. Morlen said, “In this state, if you’re in a coma [laughing] and your parent wants you to vote, they can vote for you” (Tape 2, 12:00).

·      At another point Mrs. Morlen makes this extremely insulting claim about disabled citizens trying to exercise their voting rights: “My own opinion is if the person can’t even say their name, at least their name, I don’t see why they should be voting” (Tape 2, 12:51).

Throughout the training the Republican Party representative shows an insensitivity to language minorities and disabled citizens and displays a concerning lack of knowledge regarding New Mexico’s voting regulations – this lack of knowledge could have a harmful effect on Election Day when the people who attended these trainings begin trying to challenge votes at the polls. If the attendees of these trainings – and trainings likes these that have occurred or will occur – attempt to challenge votes because of what they learned, it could lead to many problems at the polls and has the potential to disenfranchise voters who have a legal, legitimate right to exercise their civic duty on Election Day.

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(1)update: the original version of this story stated that the poll challenge guide referenced photo ID. It acutally references demandin
g a number of physical IDs.  

UPDATE: See what happened when we went back to the training AFTER this story broke. 



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