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Police investigate alleged voter registration fraud

Photo by Heath Haussamen

Police are investigating allegations that someone involved in the Doña Ana County Republican Party illegally altered seven voter registration forms to change new voters’ party affiliation from “declined to state” to Republican.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison confirmed this evening that his agency agreed to investigate but is handing the case over to the Las Cruces Police Department. Garrison, a Republican, said that is being done to avoid any perception that the case might be treated differently than any other case.

County Clerk Lynn Ellins said staffers in his office discovered the altered forms at the beginning of October. On nine forms, Ellins said, both “declined to state” and Republican were selected under party registration.

Staffers called the people whose names were on the forms. Seven of the nine said they selected declined to state, not Republican, and didn’t authorize that the forms be changed. The other two said they changed their own forms.

The county registered the seven as independents, as they indicated was their intent, so for practical purposes the attempt to alter the forms won’t affect the voters’ status in any way.

Altering a voter registration form is a fourth-degree felony, Ellins said.

‘This is outrageous’

Mark Van Dyke, the chairman of the county GOP, said he hopes police are able to catch the person responsible. The Republican Party of Doña Ana County is home to some of the most vocal complainers in the state about allegations of voter fraud, and Van Dyke said the party won’t tolerate such activity.


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“The Republican Party of Doña Ana County is well on record for hating voter fraud, so when the allegation comes to our house, we take it very seriously,” Van Dyke said. “It’s a felony for a reason. This is outrageous.”

Van Dyke said his understanding is that the “R” on the seven voter registration forms is in different handwriting than was used to fill out the rest of each form. He said he has no doubt that someone within his organization is responsible, but the party hasn’t been able to identify that person.

Ellins said his office contacted the attorney general, secretary of state, district attorney and sheriff about the situation. The AG and DA declined to investigate. The Secretary of State’s Office said it would have referred the complaint to the AG. Only the sheriff agreed to take the case.

GOP takes steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again

Van Dyke said he has taken steps to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Ellins notified Van Dyke of the situation on Oct. 7. At a meeting on Oct. 9, Van Dyke disbanded the party’s voter registration committee – an action that will remain in effect until each party voter registration agent is retrained by the county clerk’s office.

Van Dyke has also implemented a new procedure for turning over voter registration forms to the clerks’ office. Prior to this incident, the party’s voter registration agents brought completed forms to the party office, where someone proofread them to make sure everything was filled out accurately. Then the forms were turned in to the clerk’s office in one batch.

It was at the proofreading stage that the forms were likely altered, Van Dyke said. In the future, voter registration agents will be responsible for turning in the forms they collect to the clerk’s office themselves and then notifying the party of how many forms they turned in.

‘I’m astounded’

Van Dyke said altering the forms was not only wrong and counter to the party’s focus on combating alleged voter fraud, but it was also nonsensical. Changing the forms so people were registered as Republicans had no potential benefit to Republicans, even if it had been successful.

Ellins said he’s shocked that someone would try to get away with altering the forms when each had to be reviewed and manually inputted into the clerk’s system by an employee.

“I’m astounded that whoever did this didn’t think that we would pick up on it,” he said.

Update, 11:30 p.m.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Orlando said her office “properly directed the county clerk’s office to send all information and materials about this case to law enforcement to be fully investigated.” She said the office has “absolutely” not declined the case – it has not yet been presented to the DA’s office by law enforcement for review.

Update, 11:50 p.m.

In addition, this e-mail from the chief deputy county clerk to a staffer in the DA’s office states that the materials related to the case were sent to the sheriff’s department “per your request.”

Update, Oct. 29, 12:35 p.m.

Ellins said this to clarify what he meant about the district attorney and AG declining to investigate:

“The district attorney investigator told us to refer to the sheriff because his office was swamped. It’s not that they didn’t want to. They told us they couldn’t, so we referred it to the sheriff.”

“And the attorney general did pretty much the same thing. He said to refer it to local law enforcement.”

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16 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Thank you Mick for the clarifications. I am very sensitive about this issue as several of us have been treated disrespectfully for “butting into others business and not minding your own business” (as the sheriff’s deputy said). I am not in your county, I’m sure it is different there. I will be hard pressed to look the other way today, but I fear I must as I fear what the political machine will do to minorities “butting in”. And I would also enjoy a secret ballot, the poll watcher “volunteer” at the scanning machine always comments on my selections. This didn’t happen when we had truly secret ballots with the voting machines. I always wonder how he knows, and that makes me skeptical of the whole system.

  2. @ Dr. J, part 2 , your remarks to Mick.

    I am a friend and neighbor to all who want honest elections. I am a foe to any who would commit voter or election fraud.

    I claim no jurisdiction over you, Dr. J. I merely asked for facts. I am honestly asking you; which investigators intimidated you?

    I have found both the County Clerk, Lynn Ellins, and the District Attorney, Susana Martinez, to be diligent and honest government officials.

    So, I as I understand you to say; these authorities (one or both, or their representatives) laughed at you and intimidated you. If that is indeed the case, then you have every right to your righteous anger and I would be proud to stand with you to fight such an injustice, which harms all who desire free and fair elections.

    If, on the other hand, you are a fear monger spreading rumors, then you can understand my skepticism. To avoid such questions and distrust with regards to what I post, that is why I proudly sign my name:

    Respectfully, Michael J. Flynn (aka, Mick)

  3. This information was filed 3 times, after the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections to the proper authorities, I have now idea why I should tell you “Mick”, as you are obviously not anyone of authority in my jurisdiction. There was a lame investigation, some laughing, accusations about the reporting parties, and nothing happened, as it never does. But you wait, tomorrow myself and my neighbors (one of whom has a dead father registered to vote as we can see on the rolls) will see the same things happen, but having been intimidated by the investigators previously, no one will report it this time, we have to live in this neighborhood and get along with our neighbor “volunteers”.

  4. Mick: it appears that perhaps for the first time in his lengthy career as a commenter Hemingway is somehow at a loss for words when it comes to replying to your questions, which certainly suggests that his allegations were fatuous.

  5. @ Dr. J.

    Please, Dr. J, give us facts and not innuendo.

    1. Which Democratic poll captain permitted which dead person to vote and which illegal alien to vote?
    2. At which polling place did this happen?
    3. When did this happen?
    4. Did you file a complaint? If yes, what came of it? If not, why not (are you not a patriot?)?

    Dr. J, civil society works on the premise of basic honesty. Both political parties rely on volunteers. In our day to day relationships we expect people to do that right thing. It would not be a tempest in a teapot if the credibility of volunteer registrars could no longer be expected.

    So, the facts are these: There is a report that 7 voter registration forms have been tampered with.

    Please provide the facts around your allegations. Or do you just make stuff up?

    Michael J. Flynn

  6. Re: Dr. J’s comment – according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales.”It is imperative that those who have specific information about discrimination or election fraud make that information available immediately to my office, the FBI or the Civil Rights Division.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathon M. Gerson has been appointed the district election officer for New Mexico and can be reached at 505-224-1443 or 505-346-7274. Discrimination complaints can be made to the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. The FBI can be reached at 505-224-1443 (“U.S. Attorney’s Office sets up election fraud unit” http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_16476045). Failing to immediately report information about voter fraud or intimidation to the U.S. Attorney and/or FBI could constitute aiding and abetting it.

  7. I’m just telling you what Mark Van Dyke told me:

    Van Dyke has also implemented a new procedure for turning over voter registration forms to the clerks’ office. Prior to this incident, the party’s voter registration agents brought completed forms to the party office, where someone proofread them to make sure everything was filled out accurately. Then the forms were turned in to the clerk’s office in one batch.

    It was at the proofreading stage that the forms were likely altered, Van Dyke said. In the future, voter registration agents will be responsible for turning in the forms they collect to the clerk’s office themselves and then notifying the party of how many forms they turned in.

    so they were proofread after the VRAs turned them into the party and before they were turned in to the clerk’s office. It was at that point, Van Dyke says, when they would have been altered.

  8. Heath, not sure that makes sense. Lynn Ellins said they noticed it during data entry at the clerks office. Registration forms are required to be turned in to the clerks office within a certain number of days, I believe, or mailed wthin that time frame. The only reason the state republican party gets a copy of the form is because they pay the local party $8 per Republican registration. The original signed form goes to the clerks oiffice. VRA’s, registered through the local party, turn them into the local party office, where they are logged in and copies made to send to the state for reimbursement.

  9. GalRepub, the allegation is that the forms were altered after the VRAs turned them in to the state party.

  10. Most Voter Regsitration Agents take registration seriously. When you register at the clerks office to be a VRA, you are assigned a VRA number which must be put on each form along with your signature, as well as on the stub that is given to the person registering to confirm they have registerd. I would think that all the clerks office has to do is look up that VRA number to know who is responsible for the forms in question. The VRA is responsble for a block of forms that is assigned to them.

  11. How can anyone take this seriously. Come on, party registartion is not a vote, give me a break, this is a tempest in a teapot even if real, which I doubt. When the Democrat poll captain at my polling place somehow allows dead people and illegal aliens to vote, and no one cares to investigate after years of this, that is where the investigations should be. Yes, my neighbors and I see this every election.

  12. It is ironic that voter fraud has been committed by the Republicans, who have been droning on and on and on about this matter! Ms. Martinez should be in the forefront . Where is she – oh campaigning against voter fraud!

  13. This is why so many good Republicans have walked away from the local party in the past couple of years.

  14. In a strange election campaign, I could never have imagined that Republican complaints about voter fraud were complaints about Republican voter fraud. Now what will they accuse Democrats of next?

  15. OMG—NOOOOOOOO! Seven more registered Republicans!!!! What will we do?

    No, seriously, what’s gonna come of this?

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