November 12, 2015

Clerk asks prosecutor to review Lechuga-Tena voting record

Idalia Lechuga-Tena

A newly selected New Mexico Representative may be under legal scrutiny even before she is officially sworn in.

After admitting to voting before she was a U.S. citizen, Idalia Lechuga-Tena’s voting history appears to be under review by prosecutors in Bernalillo County.

Idalia Lechuga-Tena.

Idalia Lechuga-Tena.

Earlier this week the Bernalillo County Commission voted in favor of appointing Lechuga-Tena to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Lechuga-Tena will be the second person appointed to the seat since the last election. The Bernalillo County Commission chose Stephanie Maez to replace Mimi Stewart last year.

A spokesman from the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office told NM Political Report that Lechuga-Tena’s voter registration and voting history were sent to the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. A spokeswoman for District Attorney Kari Brandenburg could only confirm that her office received information from the County Clerk’s office and it was under review.

“We can confirm that we have received some information from the County, and that information is under review,” DA spokeswoman Kayla Anderson told NM Political Report.

Anderson said she could not comment on exactly what her office received or why.

According to a string of emails obtained by NM Political Report  County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver was first alerted to Lechuga-Tena’s voting record by a county employee  who mentioned a tweet by independent journalist Peter St. Cyr and a story by NM Political Report.

On Tuesday afternoon, Toulouse Oliver requested that the County Bureau of Elections Administrator forward all of Lechuga-Tena’s voting history to the District Attorney’s office. By 5:30 p.m., an email was sent to the DA alerting the elections division of possible voter fraud.

“Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office would like to officially alert you of a suspected violation of the Election Code, which was brought to our attention today via the below email chain,” read an email from the Clerk’s office to the DA.

According to the voting records obtained through the County Clerk, Lechuga-Tena first voted in an Albuquerque election in 2003 when she was 20 and again in a 2014 Democratic primary election.

Lechuga-Tena previously told NM Political Report that she mistakenly registered to vote and later cast a vote before she was a U.S. citizen. She said the mistake was corrected when she cancelled her voter registration. The next time she voted was in 2007 after, according to Lechuga-Tena, she became a citizen.

Lechuga-Tena may also face another problem—whether she actually lives within the district she represents.

County records also show that in 2007, Lechuga-Tena registered at an address within District 19, represented by state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque. In December 2014 Lechuga-Tena submitted a voter registration card with a new address within House District 21, but with a mailing address the same as her previous residence. The registration card she submitted was dated December 5, almost ten days before the County Commission appointed Maez. Two months later, Lechuga-Tena filed a new registration card with an address back in House District 19. Earlier this month, she submitted a registration card with the same House District 21 address.

Before Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, Lechuga-Tena told NM Political Report that she recently moved into District 21 in order to be considered for the appointment. She also said she is keeping her previous house in order to help care for her parents.

Lechuga-Tena’s District 19 address is almost two miles from her District 21 address. The address listed on her most recent registration card lists the same address and apartment number as when she was previously registered in District 21.

The Bernalillo County Commission voted 3-2 to appoint Lechuga-Tena to the state House, with the commission’s two Republicans, Lonnie Talbert and Wayne Johnson, going along with Democrat Art de la Cruz. Democrats Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins preferred teacher Debra Sariñana.

NM Political Report left a message for Lechuga-Tena on Thursday afternoon. We will update this story when we hear back from her. It’s unclear whether the District Attorney or the County Clerk’s offices have informed Lechuga-Tena of the examination of her voting record.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly cited the year Lechuga-Tena voted in a primary election. We regret the error.