NM Sec of State says voter suppression accusations are false
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Democrats in New Mexico have accused Secretary of State Dianna Duran of trying to suppress voter turnout after her office sent out nearly 178,000 postcards to voters tagged as potentially “inactive” but Duran says her office is simply following federal guidelines the US Department of Justice instructed it to do.
“There is no voter suppression at work here,” Duran said from her office on Friday, insisting that it’s merely an attempt to clean up voter rolls in the state after the administration of former Secretary of State Mary Herrera did not conduct a purge of voter rolls in 2007 and then sent out postcards in 2009 that had to be withdrawn because of faulty information.Potential voter suppression has been a common refrain by Democrats across the country as a number of efforts — largely backed by Republicans — have been made to institute voter ID laws in various states. Duran herself campaigned in 2010 supporting photo voter ID.
“Though there is no evidence to support the ‘voter fraud’ myth in New Mexico,” state Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) wrote in an angry news release Thursday (Aug. 9th), “steps are being taken to purge our voter file — a likely illegal act that is now disenfranchising legitimate, long-time voters in our state.”
But Duran points to a letter dated from last September from a deputy chief at the Department of Justice reporting that the state is not in compliance with the National Voting Rights Act because of the failed efforts in 2007 and 2009 and is obligated to “remove persons from the voter rolls who have become ineligible” though a “general program of list maintenance.”
Sen. Lopez in her own news release said the 177,768 postcards sent out earlier this month “will create confusion among the electorate” but Duran says the statement on each card telling the recipient, “You may be required to confirm your current address at the polls on election day if this card is not returned” is the same as mailings sent by previous secretaries of state.
“I find it interesting that now that I’m in office,” Secretary Duran said Friday, “and I’m sending out the confirmation cards for the first time and I’m complying with the Department of Justice and the [New Mexico] Attorney General … that this language which was on the cards that were sent out years ago and has been with previous administrations, the exact same language, now we have people who are concerned about it but at that time, I don’t ever remember hearing anyone being concerned about that language being sent to voters.”
The cards went out to voters whose names were flagged because county clerks had received at least one piece of mail returned as undeliverable or have a current change of address on file with the US Postal Service.
On Friday, officials at the Secretary of State’s office said of the nearly 178,000 cards sent out, some 39,000 (21.9 percent) have already come back as undeliverable to their respective addresses and about 300 voters have replied with updated addresses.
Of those cards sent, Duran says about 82,000 went to registered Democrats, 53,000 to registered Republicans and 40,000 to voters who Declined to State, which approximates the proportions of registered voters in New Mexico (which is 48 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican).
Any actual removing of names from the rolls cannot happen until 2015, as the Department of Justice instructed the Secretary of State’s office last fall (see story here).
So what happens if you received one of these cards? Here’s Duran:
And here’s the September, 2011 letter from the Obama Justice Department (thanks to Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican for posting this on Scribd.com on his blog):
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Brian Egolf, Department of Justice, Dianna Duran, Gail Chasey, Linda Lopez, Mary Herrera, National Voting Rights Act, New Mexico Secretary of State, Santa Fe New Mexican, Steve Terrell, voter suppression