March 3, 2022

AG, SOS issue warning over Otero County ‘vigilante audit’

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The state’s top elections official and top lawyer issued a warning over an election “audit” taking place in Otero County, telling residents they are under no obligation to participate in the audit or provide any information.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, in a call with media members on Wednesday, referred to the effort as a “vigilante audit” and said “there is nothing that is legitimate about this process in my point of view.”

It came to light after a TikTok video by an Otero County voter received lots of attention when she highlighted a visit from a group called the New Mexico Audit Force. 

The effort, which echoes efforts made by conservatives and some far-right politicians throughout the country regarding the 2020 elections, was authorized by the Otero County Commission and outsourced to the New Mexico Audit Force. That group is sending volunteers door-to-door to speak to voters and gather personal information.

Attorney General Hector Balderas and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a release to remind voters of their rights and what information is publicly available in the form of voter records.

No voter is required to provide information on who they voted for or on how they voted on ballot issues, the two reminded. They also said there is no legal requirement to participate in the audit in any way.

“Under our public records act, there is a lot of information that can be shared, including the limited information about voters and their voter history if, again, the entity requesting that follows certain steps,” Toulouse Oliver said. “There are things that definitely cannot be shared.”

She also said that they have received a flood of complaints, as have the office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General.

“Given that it just seemed to be an issue of widespread concern, we felt it was important to put out an advisory,” she said.

New Mexico already, by statute, conducts randomized audits of elections and voter verification after each election. The state is able to do so thanks to the use of paper ballots in every election.

The county commission is paying the group nearly $50,000 for the audit. At the time, the Otero County Attorney warned the county could be liable for civil rights claims for violating constitutional rights.

The company EchoMail is conducting the operation. It was involved with the ill-fated Arizona audit attempt that targeted Maricopa County. As The Daily Beast reported, the company was founded by Shiva Ayyadurai, a former Republican Senate candidate and election conspiracy theorist.

Earlier, State Auditor Brian Colón opened a special examination into the agreement between Otero County and the firm and whether it violated state procurement wars.

Balderas and Toulouse Oliver encouraged anyone who feels they are being harassed or intimidated as part of the so-called audit to contact the Attorney General’s office at 1-844-255-9210 or through the office’s website.