An Albuquerque City Council committee voted Monday evening to defer for 90 days a resolution asking New Mexico’s congressional delegation to push for an investigation of a 2016 federal law enforcement operation that netted a highly disproportionate number of black people. Councilor Pat Davis*, who sponsored the measure, cast the lone vote to send it to the full City Council. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is used with permission. Voting to defer the resolution were councilors Don Harris — who made the motion to delay the vote — Ken Sanchez, Brad Winter and Klarissa Peña. That means the council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee will rehear the resolution after 90 days during which time city officials hope to gather more information.
New Mexico was told there are no signs that Russians targeted the state’s elections systems ahead of the 2016 elections. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver made the announcement Friday afternoon, after news broke that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security contacted the elections officials in each state and informed 21 there were attempts to breach their systems. The Associated Press reported DHS said there was no evidence any votes were affected. It’s not clear how many states saw their elections systems breached. “Fortunately, it appears that New Mexico was not one of the states targeted by Russian hackers last year,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “However, cybersecurity threats are still a major concern and should be handled with the utmost seriousness and attention to detail.
After her first week in office, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is ready to get to work revamping the state election code. She said while there are a number of things she wants to focus on, her office might have to get creative financially. “We have a lot to do and we’re not fully funded to do it,” Toulouse Oliver told NM Political Report. Since former secretary Dianna Duran left office last year, there hasn’t been a lot of movement in terms of rule changes or reforms from the secretary’s office. Toulouse Oliver has long said she would work towards improving the state’s campaign finance rules if she were elected.
Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take over the Secretary of State’s office on Dec. 9, according to a release from Brad Winter, the current Secretary of State. She will be sworn into office on that day. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, won election to the position this November over Republican Nora Espinoza. Winter became Secretary of State after Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him last December after the resignation of Dianna Duran.
Hillary Clinton officially won New Mexico and its five electoral votes, after certification of results by the State Canvassing Board Tuesday. The board also certified the need for three recounts in legislative races, one of which heads into the recount with just a nine vote advantage. In the official results, 804,043 voters cast ballots, or 62.4 percent of the 1,289,414 voters who were registered in time to vote in the general election. Hillary Clinton received 48.26 percent of the votes cast in the presidential race, while Republican Donald Trump received 40.04 percent. Trump, however, received the most votes in enough states to win the presidency.
Secretary of State Brad Winter cleared the Republican candidate seeking to fill his seat of six allegations filed against her in an ethics complaint last month. Those six allegations, filed by state Democratic Party Treasurer Robert Lara, accused candidate Nora Espinoza of multiple violations of the New Mexico Campaign Reporting Act. Lara, an attorney, previously told NM Political Report that he filed the ethics complaint as a private citizen and not on behalf of the Democratic Party. While Winter dismissed all of the allegations, his office did give guidance to Espinoza on addressing some issues. “Although we do not find any violations of the [Campaign Reporting] Act, the Espinoza campaign is cautioned to ensure that all campaign reports submitted in the future accurately reflect the name and purpose of all expenditures and in-kind contributions,” Winter wrote.
The New Mexico Secretary of State’s head lawyer left her post last month to practice law in the private sector and at least one advocacy group is unsure about the lack of a replacement. Former Legal Counsel for the Secretary of State Amy Bailey’s last day was June 17. “I have only wonderful things to say about the Secretary and the office as a whole,” Bailey said. “Leaving was bittersweet, but was a life choice for me.”
A spokesman for the office said Bailey’s position will not be filled until a new Secretary is elected in November’s general election. “Secretary Winter has decided to let the next Secretary of State fill this position,” Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz said in a statement.
The Secretary of State’s office has chronic under budgeting resulting in a regular need for emergency loans, grants and special appropriations just to fulfill one of the office’s key functions: running elections. That’s the news from an audit recently released by State Auditor Tim Keller. “Repeatedly using emergency funding mechanisms for routine, regularly scheduled elections runs against commonsense budgeting principles,” Keller said in a statement. “We know we are going to have elections, we know when we’re going to have them, and we know generally how much they cost. There is no need to use band aids [sic] year after year.”
Secretary of State Brad Winter told NM Political Report while he can’t speak to the past, he believes the problem stems under-funding, not under-budgeting.
The Secretary of State’s office told county clerks that some 17-year olds will be able to vote in the upcoming primary elections. The Secretary of State’s office sent an email to county clerks last week informing them of the new procedure for these voters. The only 17-year olds who will be eligible to vote in the primaries are those who will turn 18 before the November 8 general elections. The Secretary of State said the decision came “after consultation with the Attorney General.” NMPolitics.net first reported on the email.
While former state Rep. Sandra Jeff avoided ballot disqualification after a recent scuffle with the Secretary of State, several questions remain about possible discrepancies in previous campaign reports. The biggest question is the sudden disappearance of more than $27,000 in debt from her failed 2014 campaign for reelection to the state House of Representatives. In July 2014, Jeff reported a loan contribution of $26,720.82 from Gallagher & Kennedy, a law firm with offices in Santa Fe and Phoenix. A note next to the contribution reads, “Campaign Debt for legal fees incurred.”
Jeff continued to report this debt, plus an extra $1,200 that she loaned to herself, for the next six campaign reporting periods, marking a period of nearly two years. But on March 15 of this year, Jeff amended seven old campaign reports from the 2014 election cycle.